Associate feature: The food and drink industry is looking forward with a recovery plan
2020 was a year like no other for Scotland’s food and drink sector.
Our markets across the UK and the world were decimated by the pandemic, supply chains broken, and businesses literally fighting for their survival.
All of this compounded by the challenges, particularly those across the seafood sector, of trying to navigate our way through the bureaucratic minefield of the new trading arrangements with the EU.
Despite these extraordinary challenges the industry remains optimistic.
Because what hasn’t changed is what we have – the best produce anywhere in the world.
The role of Scotland Food & Drink and our partners is to look ahead and show leadership, and the best way we can do that is through our recovery plan.
The recovery plan has been developed by the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership, with fantastic support by the Scottish Government, to provide practical, fast support to businesses of all sizes.
Between Brexit and COVID-19 there are very few food and drink businesses not being seriously affected and the recovery plan has been developed to help them recover.
Scotland’s farming, fishing, food and drink sector is a £15bn industry, employing 120,000 people in communities throughout Scotland.
The role our industry will play in the recovery of Scotland’s economy from COVID-19 and Brexit is massive and the importance of support cannot be understated.
As a partnership, we remain focused on achieving Ambition 2030, which aims to double our industry’s value to £30bn.
But this cannot be achieved in the future if we don’t continue to see investment in the present.
The Scottish Government has made a welcome initial commitment of £5m towards the recovery plan, which is a massive statement of intent and allows us to start the recovery process.
In addition, the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership is committed to raising private sector funding to invest in the delivery programme to 2023.
Although this is a strong start it will not be all the support the industry needs in the recovery process, with an estimated £3bn of revenue lost last year alone due to COVID-19.
Already in the recovery plan we have launched The Academy, a market-focused and commercially orientated business development programme that helps food and drink businesses sell themselves, build their brands and thrive in grocery and food service markets.
The Academy has three programmes which capture all stages of businesses, from those who are looking to expand further than a local level, those trying to move into broader UK markets, and those established businesses looking to achieve significant market growth.
We have also launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the Support Local directory, an online platform which looks to connect consumers and businesses to food and drink producers from across Scotland.
This gives food and drink producers of every size an online platform to reach new customers for free, and this type of practical support is priceless for smaller and medium businesses who might not have the resources to create the same opportunities for themselves.
The Academy and the Support Local directory are just the start, with many more projects set to emerge over the coming weeks and months.
Reaching Ambition 2030 is not going to be easy, but the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership has already started to lay the foundations for the industry to build on.
With the support of government and the buy-in from businesses we have the opportunity to revitalise the industry and make it stronger and more profitable than before.
Last year had challenges no one could expect, but in 2021 we have the opportunity to invest in our industry and cement Scotland’s reputation as a land of food and drink.
John Davidson is the strategy and external relations director at Scotland Food & Drink
This article was sponsored by Scotland Food & Drink