Monday, 29 April 2013

Jam Factory Jamboree!

A couple of weeks back my friend Jac from vegetarian site Tinned Tomatoes, asked if I would like to accompany her on a tour the Mackays’ Jam Factory in Arbroath. I jumped at the chance!

Aside from the factory being in my neck of the woods, I love Mackays’ product. They make a wide range of delicious marmalades, preserves, conserves and curds and I was very keen to see how they were made.

Upon our arrival at the factory, Claire, the Marketing Coordinator and our host, greeted Jac and me and gave us an insight into the history of Mackays, their products and how far the company has gone (50 countries around the globe in fact!).

Their production methods are very traditional and hands on. They use steam heated copper pans, which are made locally, to make their preserves, conserves, curds and marmalades, just like back in the day, as copper is the best conductor of heat and steam ensures an even temperature. Large paddles are used stir the fruit -which is hand weighed.

Copper Pan making jam

All the berries used in Mackays’ preserves and conserves are from Scotland, and their range of ‘Single Farm’ conserves only use berries from local farms. The raspberries and blackcurrants used in this range hail from Muirton Farm in Perthshire and the strawberries in the range come from Blacketyside Farm in Fife. Scottish berries are the best, and I’m not just saying that as I’m from Scotland, but our climate ensures a longer growth period, which gives a stronger flavour. They never compromise on using Scottish berries and even freeze some to use when berries are no longer in season.

It was fascinating to hear that Mackays are the only remaining producers marmalade in the Dundee area, using only Seville oranges imported from Spain. Their speciality is the Dundee Orange Marmalade, which celebrates the history of marmalade making in Dundee. They sell over 1 million jars of this a year. Mackays also make whiskey marmalade using brands such as MacCallan, Famous Grouse, Tullibardine, Bowmore and Glenfarclas. 

We embarked on our tour of the factory, but not before donning fetching hairnets, white coats (thankfully no photos exist) and scrubbing our hands. The fruity and sweet smells emitting from the factory were amazing - I was in heaven. We saw the 23 large copper pans, all full of fruit and sugar, bubbling away. 

In the pic above, the staff member was checking the float of the marmalade, to make sure the peel was evenly distributed. 

We moved onto the jarring area where we saw glass jars being inspected by hand to ensure none had any flaws, before being filled with marmalades when we were there and then lidded with signature copper coloured lids.  Claire explained that the copper lids had recently been designed to tell the story of the copper pan production. 

The jars were then washed and dried to clean them, ready for labelling. 

We saw the labelling process in action, which moved very quickly, and I was interested to hear that the back labels have to be changed depending on what country the orders are being exported to, to meet labelling regulations in local markets. 

The factory employs over 160 hardworking staff, mostly from the local area, and takes on more workers at seasonal times such as Christmas.

 Our tour ended up in the Mackays factory shop. This is somewhere I visit frequently. You can pick up lots of Mackays’ range, a good bargain or two and some other unexpected items. I would thoroughly recommend a visit to the factory shop, if you are ever on the East Coast of Scotland.

Mackays Single Farm Conserves are available in Tesco across the UK, and their core range can be found in Tesco, Morrisons, Co-op, Booths, Waitrose (in Scotland) and Sainsburys.  

Mackays are embracing the age of social media and can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest plus at their website you can place an order for UK delivery, or you can also visit their international page to contact the export team for information on international distribution.

Mackays kindly gave us some jars of their range to try out in recipes and I will be featuring some over the next wee while, so keep your eyes peeled (pun intended).

Lastly, a big thank you to Claire for the tour of the Mackays factory, it really was an enjoyable, fun and interesting visit.

Disclosure Statement: I have not been sponsored to write this post. I was not committed to writing a favourable review and views expressed are my own. 


  1. Looks fab! I can imagine how enticing the smell of the boiling jam and marmalade would be!

    1. The smell was the thing that greeted me first Janice. Nice greeting it was too!!

  2. It was a fun day Stuart. I really enjoyed it. Great post!

    1. Thanks number 1 food blogger :)

    2. Hehe, thank you. I will lap this up this month as I will probably sink like a rock next month :)

  3. This is so cool, I would love to do something like this. It's great to see what goes on 'behind the scenes'.

    1. You are probably too young to remember Kat, but I watched Play School when I was little and loved going through the arched window, to see how they made things in factories. This was just like that only better - it had something for all the senses!!


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