James Withers: Scotland’s food and drink industry has all the ingredients for success

By 2030, the farming, fishing, food and drink sector will be Scotland’s most valuable industry says James Withers of Scotland Food & Drink.

Published 19th Jan 2018
Updated 19 th Jan 2018

It will be a £30 billion ­business which is ­recognised as a model of collaboration and a world leader in responsible growth. That is the ­ambition that Scotland Food & Drink has set out.

Scotland Food & Drink is an ­industry body with more than 400 food and drink businesses at its heart. Yet, it has been the unique collaboration between industry organisations, government and its agencies that have created and driven Scotland Food & Drink forward.

Scotland Food and Drink

The winners of last year's awards showed the breadth and depth of the strength of Scotland's food and drink industry. Picture: Scotland Food and Drink

That collective partnership has led a transformation in the fortunes and reputation of Scottish food and drink over the last decade.

The sector has gone from static growth to be the economy’s top ­performer.

Whether it is in the top bars in New York, luxury hotels in Dubai or Michelin star restaurants in London and Edinburgh, Scottish producers are making their mark.

Our ‘deep fried’ reputation has now been replaced by a growing global identity for world class produce.

Scotland’s food and drink industry is central to the whole Scottish ­economy.

Over recent years, it has been the country’s best performing industry, with a value of £14 billion, and our fastest growing export sector.

In the last ten years, food exports have more than doubled, sales of Scottish brands in the UK have ­risen nearly 40 per cent and there are now 120,000 people employed in the ­sector.

• READ MORE: Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards 2018 opens for entries

It is because of this strong platform that we have reset our goals for 2030. We’re embracing new ambitions.

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We want to make Scotland a global ­culinary destination; a world class food tourism destination.

We are going to sell a broader range of ­products in a broader range of ­international markets and we’ll drive growth within the UK, our ­biggest market.

Crucially, we are going to focus on areas where we’ve had less success.

That means creating a more profitable farming industry which produces so much of our crucial raw material.

It also means attracting new talent to our industry and making more progress in improving the health Scotland’s population.
We should be confident in approaching these challenges and opportunities.

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In June this year, the ‘Oscars’ of the food and drink ­industry, the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards 2018, will be ­presented.

Open for applications now, they shine a light on businesses and individuals who are the cause for confidence.

They are leading the way, driving the growth in markets at home and overseas.

The awards cover the width and breadth of our exceptional food and drink industry.

So, if you have a brand, product or even a person you are particularly proud of, I’d urge you to get involved.

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As so much public debate is dominated by Brexit and the uncertainties that presents for business, the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards are a timely reminder that we have all the ingredients to grasp opportunities and secure success in a rapidly changing world.

• James Withers is chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink 

The Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards, which are organised by Scotland Food & Drink in partnership with The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, take place on 7 June at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

Aiming to celebrate the very best of Scottish food and drink, the awards seek to recognise those businesses and individuals who are leading the way with innovation, enterprise, and quality.

The 2018 awards will see the ­introduction of a brand new ­Innovation category and all 22 ­categories are now open for entries, with the ­window closing on Friday, 9 March.

- For more information, or to nominate, go to www.foodanddrink.scot

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