Macsween of Edinburgh, a 3rd generation family company, has been at the forefront of haggis and black pudding making for 60 years and this month wereÂ named Scotlandâ€™s Family Business of the Year 2013.Â After a combination of public votes and the opinion of a judging panel of family business experts, the winners were announced at an evening reception hosted by Farrer & Co in London.
Jo Macsween, who isÂ Joint Managing Director with her brother James, said, “As a third generation family company, we are delighted and honoured to be recognised by this award, especially as we celebrate our 60th anniversary this year.
“Honouring our tradition, we produce award-winning products handcrafted to unique family recipes and the finest ingredients. As pioneers of Scotlandâ€™s national dish, we are passionate about taking haggis to a new place in an environmentally and ethically sustainable manner, and extolling Haggis as a versatile ingredient that is perfect for all seasons, occasions and places.”
In 2012 Macsween was awarded the Morrisons Award for Outstanding Business at the IGD Food Industry Awards, other recent accolades include awards from the Guild of Fine Food [Great Taste], Vegetarian Society (for their vegetarian haggis), Â Scotland Food and Drink and VIBES.Â Just a couple of weeks ago, Macsween were awarded Best Food Producer at the Midlothian Food and Drink Awards.
The Story Begins
The Macsween story began in 1950 when Charlie and his wife Jean worked at William Orrs on George Street, a wonderful delicatessan Â where Charlie learnt a lot of his butcher craft and was promoted to manager. Faced with redundancy when Mr Orr died, he was encouraged to set up his own butchers business by Mr Orr’s daughter, Mrs Goodram, who offered to lend him Â£5,000.
Their first shop was in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh andÂ Charlie’s customers from Orr’s followed him there. It was in Bruntsfield thatÂ Charlie created the first Macsween haggis and Macsween black pudding. Business went so well that in 1963, they expanded into adjoining premises.
By this time, John, Charlie’s eldest son, had left school to join his parents. He used to tell how the staff lined up a special job for him on his first day. “They had three geese waiting for me – it was the most hellish job on the earth; feathers everywhere. They really had a good laugh, (at) the boss’s son plucking the geese.”
When Charlie passed away in 1975, the business was carried on by John and his wife Kate. Together they developed the business, exploring the manufacturing potential of haggis and other specialist products, including creating a vegetarian haggisÂ for the opening of the Scottish Poetry Library.
With their interest in new, efficient technologies, Macsween was one of the first companies in the UK to invest in vacuum packing technologies, printed labels, and bar coding. In 1996, withÂ John and Kate’s children, brother and sister James and Jo, now on board,Â the family designed the world’s first dedicated haggis production kitchens in Loanhead. “With the help of a ball of string and some kebab sticks, we marked it out in the back garden prior to construction so we knew the layout would work,” says James. Macsween HQ moved to Loanhead and by 1998 the retail shop had closed.
While preferring to call the premises ‘kitchens’ rather than factories,Â Â Jo and James masterminded the world’s first ’60-second’ microwaveable traditional and vegetarian haggis, followed by the ’90-second’ microwaveable black pudding a range which attracted over a quarter of a million new consumers in the first few years.
Shortly after handing over the reins to his children,Â John passed away in 2006 after a life’s dedication to a business he loved so passionately. As his numerous obituaries testified, he achieved a very special place in people’s hearts all over the world.
So, will the family tradition continue? James says,Â â€œIf my sons Charlie and George are as keen about the family business as they are about eating haggis, the futureâ€™s in safe hands!â€
No pressure there! Meanwhile,Â Macsween ambassadors, Hamish and Morag, have joined the family and, while not really counting as a fourth generation, Â they have swiftly achieved celebrity status. Fast Angus, the ambassador for the microwaveable black pudding, arrived in 2010 and their antics can be followed on the Macsween Facebook page.
And at the end of July 2013, Macsweens will be sponsoring our monthly newsletter competition with a fantastic goody bag. Â SoÂ sign up here!