There is more to Scotland’s growing food and drink sector than whisky and seafood, important though these products are to our national bottom line.
Scotland can now boast the UK’s leading gluten-free product range, our home-grown gins and vodkas are winning global awards, and according to legend, Tunnock’s teacakes are Britain’s favourite biscuit.
The sector is worth £14 billion a year to the Scottish economy, with a target of £16.5 billion by 2017. It is, according to Scotland Food and Drink, our fastest-growing export group and one of the best performing domestic sectors.
Consumers are demanding high quality products with a strong provenance, as well as value for money.
It takes great expertise and creativity to keep Scotland’s food and drink sector ahead of the game, to provide consumers with the products they want, and supply retailers with the goods they can sell.
That is why skills and innovation are the twin themes of this year’s Scotsman Conferences food and drink event, which is on Tuesday 20th September, in central Edinburgh.
In recent years the sector has shown a strong track record in innovation, but it must keep moving forward if it is to continue to flourish.
This means creating the right conditions for new and innovative businesses to be created in Scotland, as well as encouraging existing businesses to display innovation in their products, processes and services in order to scale up their operations.
And a highly-skilled workforce across the country – especially in sparsely-populated rural areas - is essential if food and drink businesses are to survive and thrive.
This is the fifth year of this popular event where producers, retailers and industry experts get together to discuss the key issues affecting the sector. No doubt the impact of Brexit will be a hot topic, especially as around 80 per cent of Scotland’s food and drink exports (excluding whisky) go to EU countries.
Speakers this year include crowd favourite James Withers of Scotland Food and Drink, TV star and seafood ambassador Jimmy Buchan and founder of Genius Foods, Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne.
It will be chaired by one of Scotland’s biggest advocates for the sector, Stephen Jardine, founder of Taste Communications, the Scottish food and drink communications agency, and Scotsman food columnist.
The event is sponsored by the Bank of Scotland, Anderson Strathern, and Willis Towers Watson, and is in partnership with Scotland Food and Drink and Taste Communications.
Bank of Scotland Area Director Jane Clark-Hutchison, who will discuss the findings of the Bank’s annual food and drink report at the event, said: “Food and drink has been the real success story of the Scottish economy over the last five years. It is crucial that we can maintain the momentum which has seen the sector grow its markets, both at home and abroad.
“Continued momentum will be driven by innovation and a skilled workforce and I am delighted that this conference, now a landmark in the food and drink calendar, will explore those key themes. There will inevitably be discussions around the UK’s decision to leave the EU and what it might mean for the sector, but I am confident that food and drink businesses in Scotland have the creativity, ingenuity and talent to deal with the range of challenges the future holds.
“Bank of Scotland is delighted to support this event again and looks forward to some excellent debate.”
• See the full line of expert speakers and book your place at the is important event here.