15m visitors looking local

2014 provides a huge opportunity for food and drink retailers and producers to raise the bar for Scottish products argues Scotland Food and Drink boss James Withers

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink.
James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink.

THIS year is the perfect stage to showcase Scotland as a land of food and drink as we play host to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, 2014 Ryder Cup and celebrate the second staging of Homecoming Scotland.

I’m convinced this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the food and drink industry – retailers, hospitality operators and producers alike – to get involved and capitalise on new business opportunities. All of this works towards achieving our ambitious target to grow the value of the nation’s food and drink industry to £16.5bn by 2017.
Of course, we’re not starting from scratch. Huge strides have been taken in the last few years to forge our reputation, demonstrated through growing demand. Research from Scottish Enterprise reveals that over 70% of those visiting Scotland want to experience regional specialities, authentic products and indigenous produce. This sets a strong case for our food and drink retailers, from multiples to convenience stores, whatever the scale, to look local when stocking their shelves. About 15 million visitors to Scotland in 2014 will be on the lookout for it!

Huge strides have been taken in the last few years

The Going Places with Scotland’s Food and Drink Industry Conference taking place in Perth Concert Hall on 5 March is an opportunity for our producers and manufacturers to hear from leading industry figures how they, through innovation, collaboration, up-skilling and diversification, can reach their long-term aspirations and grow in new markets both at home and abroad.
This national event is a product of partnership between Perth & Kinross Council, Scottish Enterprise, SAC Food and Drink and Scotland Food & Drink. It’s the first in a series of big-hitting conferences to run as part of the Scottish Cities Alliance Global Excellence Conference Programme. The excellence of Scotland’s key sectors will be on display (and it’s nice to see food and drink up to bat first).
We are honoured to welcome world renowned chef Albert Roux as a key note speaker at the event and he’ll call on Scotland’s food and drink finest to set their sights on even greater success in 2014.
The cabinet secretary for rural affairs and the environment, Richard Lochhead will join the Michelin-star chef in welcoming our delegates. There can be no question that the Scottish Government has put its shoulder firmly behind the food and drink agenda, and the industry and key public sector agencies are now collaborating under one roof through Scotland Food and Drink. With big new projects either recently announced or in the pipeline, Mr Lochhead will look to rally the industry and affirm that there is much more to come from a sector which is Scotland’s best performing sector right now. We are calling on producers and manufacturers to realise ambitions in local markets, supply retailers and foodservice organisations, build premium brands, operate in the events tourism market or join the wave of new business being generated in international markets.

The excellence of key sectors will be on display

During the conference delegates will be given the opportunity to attend workshops hosted by a range of producers both large and small in order to exchange ideas and best practices. These workshops will cover everything from how to enhance your digital presence and develop a new customer base to growing business through exports.
Having a chef as acclaimed as Mr Roux attest to the quality of Scotland’s produce will provide a boost to all of us in the food and drink sector as we strive to deliver our ambitious industry targets and solidify our status as a land of food and drink.