'Academy' offers helping hand for Scottish food and drink firms amid Covid and Brexit headwinds

Almost 40 Scottish businesses have become the first cohort to sign up to a training initiative to help food and drink firms recover and grow amid the double whammy of Covid-19 and Brexit.

The Academy is a series of programmes being delivered by Scotland Food & Drink Partnership and training outfit Levercliff Associates to support businesses “sell themselves, build their brands, thrive and compete” in the competitive retail and food-service markets.

Three training programmes – seeding growth, accelerating growth and commercial excellence – have been designed to support companies at various stages in their development.

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They mark the first major investment from the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership’s £5 million recovery plan, which is supported by the Scottish Government. It will run for two and a half years and aims to support more than 200 businesses.

Andy Murray, founder of the Drinks Bakery, one of the participants in The Academy.

There are 18 businesses kickstarting their growth journey by joining the seeding growth programme, including Mimi’s Bakehouse, Five Kingdoms Brewery, Oban Fish Company and the Pakora Explorer. A further 20 firms, including Bon Accord Soft Drinks, Glaswegin, Mathiesons Bakery, Browns Food Group and the Drinks Bakery, are upskilling via the accelerating growth programme.

Seeding Growth, which started in May and will run for 12 weeks, is aimed at food and drink companies whose primary focus is maximising their local markets and beginning to consider opportunities in the broader Scottish marketplace.

Lucy Husband, market development and business engagement director at Scotland Food & Drink, said: “The Academy aims to bring a renewed sense of positivity and optimism for businesses when it comes to growing their brands. It is fantastic to see so many local food and drink businesses focus on their future and revisit their ambitions for growth after an extraordinarily difficult year.

“These programmes have a real focus on knowledge sharing, upskilling and innovating, and are fundamentally about helping businesses to deliver a real step-change for long term growth. Change that is rooted in the here and now in the commercial realities of the world we live in, but with an eye to the future.”

She added: “Whilst we don’t know what the future might hold, food and drink will undoubtedly continue to be a key export and economic contributor for Scotland and we are thrilled to be able to support businesses grow their brand to compete in local, UK and international markets.”

Sheetal Revis, director at the Pakora Explorer, said: “The last year has challenged the business to the point of thinking, this is it, what will we do now? However, from challenges comes opportunity and the need to think outside the box.

“If we have to look for a positive from Covid, we may never have moved into producing a line for retail/food service. We have had to significantly adapt our business plan to keep serving our customers and it’s been and still is tough, but there is hope and positivity.”

Andy Murray, founder at the Drinks Bakery, added: “The Drinks Bakery is now getting closer to partnering with the right sort of UK multiple retail and we’ve been exporting small amounts to Europe, UAE and North America over the last two years but things are about to get bigger.”

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