Turning the humble pea into an innovative snack
By Gemma Rae of Bruce Farms.
Bruce Farms is a family owned farming business based outside the village of Meigle in Perthshire. Farming began in 1898 for the Bruce's and is now directed by 3rd & 4th generation father and son team Bill Bruce and Geoff Bruce. The first farm, only 300 acres, was leased 120 years ago and at the time, farming was conventional. Since then our business has expanded, now owning farms around Meigle amounting to 1,600 acres. Bruce Farms has diversified in this time, introducing new crops. Today, we produce 1,500 tonnes of barley for malting, 14,000 tonnes of potatoes for Albert Bartlett, 500 tonnes of blackcurrants for Ribena, 1,000 tonnes of strawberries and raspberries for supermarket and a pedigree herd of Charolais cattle for breeding. In addition, Bruce Farms produces Peas & Beans on almost 8,900 acres of land, which in 2019 took the total farmed area to over 10,500 acres. Bruce Farms, has recently launched a new freeze-dried seasoned pea snack called Podberry. A new innovative healthy snacking product created from our peas.
Peas were first introduced to the Bruce Farms rotation as an optimistic new crop by Bill Bruce back in 1967 in a small field with the produce being taken in the back of his Land Rover to the local factory. In 2019, Bruce Farms will harvest over 15,500 tonnes of Peas & Beans and produce over 50% of all the Scottish peas which equated to 1 in 10 peas produced in the UK.
The Pea & Bean operation is controlled throughout. Bruce Farms rent ploughed land on an annual basis from up to 200 different farmers in Perthshire, Angus and Fife. The team at Bruce Farms then procure and sow the entire crop with our own equipment, monitor and treat the growing crop, harvest using our own 6 viners during July, August and September working 24 hours per day and deliver the produce to Dundee Cold Stores for cleaning, blanching, freezing, colour scanning, boxing and storing.
Dundee Cold Stores is a jointly owned factory between Bruce Farms and another grower. The factory was purchased in 2007 by the two growers and has had major investment averaging £1m per year to make it more efficient and reliable in order to protect the growers' needs which focus around reliability. During this ownership the factory has improved beyond all recognition and is a vital cog in the Pea & Bean production process. To do this, we have adopted a number of approaches concentrating on all aspects 'from field to factory to marketing to consumer’.
Highest Quality produce is our ethos. If we have this; we have something to be proud of that we can market more easily than a poor product and this is enhanced further in certain years when supply exceeds demand - the best sells first. Not only are Bruce Farms the only Scottish supplier to No. 1 pea brand Birds Eye, we are also the only independent UK supplier to them. Birds Eye have been a customer for over 20 years to whom we sell 50% of our product and their quality standards are the highest in the industry. To achieve these standards, we need to source the best of land for growing, use the right varieties, harvest at precisely the right time and ensure the harvest process from growing to frozen is rapid (under 150 minutes).
Safe produce is absolutely critical and something Scotland has a tremendous reputation for throughout the world - at Bruce Farms we believe we very much play our part in upholding this reputation for ourselves, our customers, our nation but ultimately our consumer. The practices we use throughout the process are numerous but ultimately are captured within the audit and accreditation process which we adhere to rigorously. We comply with Farm Assured Produce, Global Gap and LEAF Marque. Meanwhile in the factory; BRC to AA standard is met with annually. Without safety - we have no business - everyone at Bruce Farms understands this.
Bruce Farms is continually evolving, improving and expanding. However; like many primary products; the pressures of oversupply and the intensity of price squeezing has kept us totally focussed on striving to be the best and most efficient Pea & Bean producer we can be.
Peas & Beans are a valuable, natural source of protein and with this in mind we have developed a new seasoned pea snack called Podberry. The UK’s first freeze-dried seasoned snack created because we wanted to give consumers a different way to taste our peas. We invested in freeze-drying technology because of the benefits it provides in retaining the nutritional benefits of our produce. The freeze drying of the frozen pea removes the moisture of the pea thus giving an extended shelf life of 12 months but maintaining the fibre, protein and vitamins. The flavouring has been formulated not just for taste but also to meet many standards including gluten free, vegan friendly, low in both fat and salt. The mixing process involves drying the flavouring onto the pea (not frying which can leave a residue when eating) and cuts out fat. The end product we believe to be one of the healthiest and tastiest in the snack market. The process ensures that our unique snacks are high in protein, low in fat, 1 of your 5 a day and incredibly healthy for the consumer.
Bruce Farms prides itself on respect for the heritage of the land it cultivates, whilst constantly innovating through its use of cutting-edge technology to diversify its agricultural offering.
With thanks to Gemma Rae and everyone at Bruce Farms.