Geoff Taylor wins M&S ‘Farming for the Future’ Award

18th May, 2015

Geoff Taylor wins M&S ‘Farming for the Future’ Award

Congratulations to Geoff Taylor, who scooped the Innovation Award at the Marks & Spencer ‘Farming for the Future’ Award presentation, which took place at the Balmoral Show on Wednesday 13th May.

The award recognises producers who are pushing the boundaries in their sector and is a great achievement for Geoff and Monaghan Mushrooms. Runners up included Keelings and other farmers from across the island. Geoff received the award for the work he has done as New Product Development Project Manager at Monaghan Mushrooms, particularly in bringing Vitamin D mushrooms to the market and making savings in packaging design.

Geoff said:

“I come from a farming background and whilst agriculture will always be in my blood, I feel that product development is the really fun and exciting part of the food industry.

One of the most interesting products I’ve worked on has been the development of Vitamin D mushrooms, which are now exclusively available in over 200 M&S stores across the UK and Ireland.”

With research showing that most adults in the UK are Vitamin D deficient, Geoff and a team comprising of Engineers, Scientists and Technical experts set about developing a unique mushroom that could help reverse this situation.

Monaghan Mushrooms have formulated a process to deliver a precise dose of Vitamin D mushrooms during the packaging process. Now, just three of these special M&S mushroom caps need to be consumed to guarantee 100 percent of an adult’s daily allowance of Vitamin D.

M&S also acknowledged the work that Geoff and others at Monaghan Mushrooms have done in implementing changes to the packaging for M&S mushrooms that will ultimately help the environment.

Geoff told M&S:

“Tyholland produces around 100 tonnes of mushrooms a week and because we are dealing with such large numbers, any small changes we can make to packaging really add up.”

A typical Marks & Spencer plastic mushroom punnet has now been redesigned to reduce its weight by 3 grams, which will result in over 5,700 kg of saved plastic each year. All punnet packaging material is now also completely recyclable and Geoff has even gone as far as to redesign the size of mushroom punnets to ensure that more can fit in each delivery crate so reducing the number of journeys needed to deliver the same amount of produce to store.

Geoff concluded:

“The joy of product development is that there are always new projects on the horizon and things that can be improved upon. I am really passionate about my work and can’t wait to launch more of my new ideas in the future.”

Steve McLean, Head of Agriculture and Fisheries at M&S said:

“The Farming for the Future awards are now in their eighth year, acknowledging the dedication and commitment our farmers and growers are making towards Plan A and sharing best practice amongst the agricultural community across Ireland and the UK.

Geoff is a very worthy winner and has proved this be demonstrating his innovative thinking, commercial success and social responsibility in the way he manages and executes his business.

Our judges were particularly impressed with Geoff’s enthusiasm for creating new products with added health benefits, his commitment to reducing waste and passion for the environment.”

Plan A is Marks & Spencer’s 100 commitment eco and ethical programme that tackles both today’s and tomorrow’s sustainable retail challenges. Launched in 2007, the plan has helped M&S send no waste to landfill, become carbon neutral and win 190 industry awards. Organised around four pillars – Inspiration, In Touch, Integrity and Innovation – it aims to make M&S the world’s most sustainable major retailer. To find out more please visit the Plan A website – http://corporate.marksandspencer.com/plan-a.

Open to M&S local and international producers, the awards celebrate the important role suppliers play in working towards M&S commitments, which include:

• becoming carbon neutral
• sending no waste to landfill
• extending sustainable sourcing
• setting new standards in ethical trading
• helping customers and employees live a healthier lifestyle

Geoff received a £1,000 prize for the award and has been entered into an ‘Overall Farming for the Future Champion Award’ for 2015, to be presented later this year.