An established processor of vegetables and salads is investing £400,000 in new technology to branch out into potato processing.

Willowbrook Foods of Killinchy, County Down, has already launched a range of peeled and chipped potatoes for foodservice ­clients and is now adding a fresh mashed potato product for the retail market.

The 30-year-old company has said that the investment in new machinery, which was partly funded by InvestNI and DARD, should bring badly needed jobs to the area and support local growers.

The mashed potato product has yet to be named, but will retail in 350g tubs with a shelf life of 12 days. It will be available in small symbol stores in Northern Ireland, and the company is in talks with symbol stores and multiples in Britain.

"For many years we avoided potato processing," said Willowbrook managing director John McCann. "But the technology has come a long way."