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by John Davidson, Scotland Food & Drink
10 December 2021
Associate Feature: Helping Scotland’s food and drink industry thrive once more

Associate Feature: Helping Scotland’s food and drink industry thrive once more

Scotland’s food and drink industry is a vital part of the development of a robust, resilient, wellbeing economy. It is worth remembering that, prior to the pandemic, our industry was worth £14.8 billion - up from £10 billion in 2007 - and employing 115,000 people.

The disruption from Covid-19 and Brexit, however, has been severe, with most sectors adversely affected in both domestic and international markets. These seismic events have had a profound impact on businesses across the industry, with markets that had been built over years effectively closed overnight and, even now, many still not operating to pre-pandemic levels.

Our industry’s response to the challenges borne through the pandemic and leaving the European Union was the development of the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership Recovery Plan – the first sector-wide recovery plan of any industry in Scotland. Funded by the Scottish Government, the Recovery Plan is a shining example of the power of collaboration. Comprised of trade bodies and public sector agencies, the organisations that make up the Partnership are fully committed to driving recovery and opportunity for the whole industry.

The Recovery Plan, with a set of 50 actions, amplified and accelerated the core work of the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership in delivering Ambition 2030, but critically, it injected an urgency to jump start and expedite the recovery.

Nearly 12 months on from the launch of the plan, we have already made significant progress. More than 1200 businesses have been supported and engaged through 50 programmes over the past year. However, those figures only provide a snapshot of the industry’s nascent recovery. A great deal of work and resource has been invested into putting the right support, funding, training and development in place to ensure that industry will not just recover, but also thrive once more.

Acknowledging the importance of up-to-date market insights for businesses, we created The Knowledge Bank - an insight service providing access to a unique blend of customised market research, data analysis and consumer insights. The service has so far engaged more than 400 businesses.

More than 60 businesses are now participating in our flagship business development programme, The Academy. Through the different modules, businesses that are targeting growth are being coached by industry-leading experts to bring those ambitions to fruition.

At a local level, our 18 Regional Food Groups are starting to have a positive impact, planning, and delivering projects to increase the consumption and supply of local produce; upskill food and drink businesses; host events; improve digital capabilities and, crucially, food tourism.

We’re supporting The Scottish Grocers’ Federation Go Local programme with the aim of encouraging convenience stores in Scotland to stock local produce. Ten stores have already participated with significant sales uplifts for suppliers, a further 30 stores are now committed and stocking more Scottish products.

Given the much-publicised impact of Brexit on our seafood industry, intervention has been required to ensure the continued success of this vitally important sector. The Seafood Market Activation Programme is a yearlong programme of in-market promotional activity led by SDI in collaboration with Seafood Scotland to increase and recover market opportunities for Scottish seafood. The programme is expected to generate £30M in new export sales over 3 years.

Of course, 2021 will be remembered as the year of COP26, and sustainability remains a challenge but also a huge opportunity for our industry. Over the past year, the Partnership has connected over 6,000 businesses to the Climate Change Agriculture Transformation Programme, launched our Net Zero Challenge Fund connecting businesses with academia, and introduced a dedicated Net Zero Advisor to support businesses on their Net Zero journey.  All of this is part of our new Net Zero Commitment which will guide our future efforts.

These are just some of the ongoing initiatives to support businesses through recovery and back into growth. It is crucial that we now build on these successes if we’re to ensure that our industry remains best-in-class and the envy of the world. So, while the broader economic outlook for 2022 remains challenging, through the delivery of our plan and collaboration of the Partnership, we are delivering the right support to help our industry build resilience and capability and, ultimately, thrive once more.

This article is sponsored by Scotland Food & Drink. 

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