Stephen Jardine: A lot on our plate next year

Stephen Jardine. Picture: Jon Savage

Stephen Jardine. Picture: Jon Savage

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As IS TRADITIONAL, it’s time for our annual food and drink review of the year served up with some thoughts about what 2015 might bring.

Looking back 12 months, I predicted a bumper stage for Scottish food and drink at the big sporting events of 2014, a return to real food after all the fuss about molecular gastronomy and continuing problems for supermarket giant Tesco.

If only I was as good at the bookmakers. The Scottish Food Village was a brilliant showcase for our produce at the Ryder Cup and 2014 Games, proper burger joints have swept aside the froths and foams and Tesco executives are currently wishing an end to their worst year ever.

If there was one big food and drink story in 2014, it has been the change in the way we shop and the impact this has had on Tesco and the rest of the established big names.

All have been squeezed as shoppers turn increasingly to the cheap and cheerful discounters or high-end premium stores.

If the retail pain is widespread, Tesco is suffering most. With profits halved from their peak in 2012, directors suspended, and a £250 million hole in the company accounts, this year looked like rock bottom for the retailer. However, they’re still on the way down.

The new management team have introduced a back-to-basics approach on the shopfloor but with too many stores of the wrong size in the wrong place and debt totalling £7.5 billion, Tesco’s troubles aren’t over yet.

Shareholders may not be happy but shoppers are likely to feel the benefit with more price cuts and special promotions as the battle for the grocery middle market really hots up.

Outside retail, seasonal and local remain the big influence on what we eat and we’re likely to see that develop further with more farm shops selling from their area. In uncertain times, consumers want the reassurance only small and local can supply.

Over and above all this, we have an incredibly exciting year ahead. The next 12 months have been designated as Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink.

With a special calendar of activity, our food and drink story is going to be in the spotlight like never before. If 2014 was about sport in Scotland, next year will be all about food and drink.

A decade ago we didn’t have much to celebrate so it’s fantastic to see such attention being given to the food and drink sector.

Next year can’t just be about export success, 2015 needs to be the year when Scotland’s food and drink success story is shared by everyone, with access to good, affordable produce tackling our health inequalities.

If that happens, then we will really have a legacy to celebrate this time next year. Until then, enjoy the 12 months ahead and have a very Happy New Year.

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