Scotland’s food and drink trade is powering ahead

ACROSS all sectors, Scotland’s businesses are witnessing a revival.

'At the centre of the blossoming food and drink sector is whisky.' Picture: TSPL

Much of the upsurge is being underpinned by international trade, despite ongoing uncertainty in markets including the Eurozone.

Topping the global trade league table is Scotland’s food and drink sector, which is netting all-time-high revenues. In 2009 the industry set itself the target of reaching a turnover of £12.5 billion by 2017. That goal has already been smashed, with a new even more ambitious target of £16.5bn, including an export target of £7.1bn.

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However, while there is much to celebrate, businesses must recognise the potential threats that international export trade can present.

Developing nations, including Brazil and China, are keen to diversify and challenge the status quo. In response, Scotland’s food and drink producers must create a stronger international voice.

At the centre of the blossoming food and drink sector is whisky. Our national drink is now playing a major role in driving us out of troubled economic waters.

In a typical month, more Scotch whisky is sold in France than the amount of cognac sold in a whole year. European and American markets continue to drive much of the demand, but the focus must now shift towards the regions aiming to compete with us.

A major threat lies in imitation “Scotch” produced in developing nations for lower prices. This is recognised as a key challenge for the sector, which is fiercely protective of its brand equity.

These nations also offer opportunities for growth. The Scotch Whisky Association has singled out India as its key target country for Scotch whisky sales over the next three years. The country’s burgeoning middle class is now demanding the best-quality products from the best-quality producers.

Scotland’s whisky industry has a lot to be proud of. Nine out of every ten bottles made in our country are now exported. Some analysts believe the sector is now starting to go through its third “golden era”, with sales and brand equity reaching all-time highs.

Success should be celebrated, but we cannot afford complacency. By continuing to work together, Scotland’s businesses can reap the rewards.

• Debbie Mayor is associate director, corporate finance, at Grant Thornton UK LLP