Food and drink: Change on the menu for vital industry

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Most of us eat and drink every day and sometimes it’s difficult to realise that such routine activity can make such a valuable contribution to the Scottish economy. In fact, it is an industry with a turnover of £14 billion.

The mix of global giants, iconic brands and microbusinesses in Scotland means our food and drink reaches all parts of the world. Exports last year were worth a remarkable £6bn.

It is not surprising, then, that the sector is held in the highest regard and that there are great expectations placed on it to grow still further.

The Scotland Food & Drink Partnership has set the target of increasing turnover in the sector to £30bn by 2030.

Its Ambition 2030 strategy charts growth based on three pillars: skills and people, the supply chain and innovation. In these pages, we look at how matters have progressed in these areas since our supplement last year.

James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, points to the importance of Scotland the brand and, as our articles on salmon and whisky illustrate, the international power of the Scottish label is mighty.

How the brand will fare in the next year as Brexit takes shape is one question we could not dodge.

There are illuminating insights from leaders across the sector, as well as a practical assessment of protecting individual brands by our trade mark specialist, Murgitroyd.

Brexit will also have an impact on our supply of overseas workers –such an important part of both the hospitality industry and seasonal farm work.

The challenge in recruiting employees with the proper skills is one that is being addressed through education and a determination to inject passion into the career choice.

Thinking about the supply chain, we turn to Zero Waste Scotland for its insight into how the sector is becoming more sustainable in its use of raw materials.

It all ties into the provenance story – more and more people really do care where their food and drink comes from and how it gets to their plate or glass.

With Ambition 2030’s emphasis on innovation and finding creative ways to grow markets, we’ve found some interesting ideas about where the latest technology might make its mark.

Who would have thought we’d be talking about blockchain and disruptive digital platforms in a food and drink supplement?

The Scotsman continues to fly the flag for Scotland’s food and drink and as we celebrate Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight next month, we host our annual industry conference. This year it is being held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on 4 September.

Picking up on the Brexit theme, it will look at how to future-proof the industry – a question we also put to the sector in our Voices feature.

All this, I think, makes for interesting reading. I hope you agree.

Frank O’Donnell is editorial director of The Scotsman.

This article featured in The Scotsman’s Food & Drink special. A digital version can be viewed here