What a year we have had in the Scottish Food & Drink business! The Year of Food & Drink 2015 has been an incredible success in a wide number of ways, involving many people on every level.
The recent revelation about the overall sales figures being so far ahead of targets is just one more thing to be pleased about as a nation.
The healthy level of business also reflects upon the many businesses operating throughout the country, particularly rural areas like the Highlands and Islands. Many of these are new and also relatively small.
Their success will lead to growth and development, more secure jobs and a direct contribution to the local economy.
For those attending the many events taking place across Scotland this year, there can be no doubt that the choice of refreshments available has improved beyond recognition and this is a terrific achievement.
Visitor attractions of all kinds have improved the quality of food and drink offered to their visitors by including local produce on their menus and taking greater pride in serving Scottish dishes.
Those retailing food and drink items or serving home-cooked food in their cafes, restaurants and hotels are taking pride in naming their local suppliers.
This year, I’ve loved being involved with judging this year’s Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards and was astounded at the range of new products and food businesses that entered.
The record level of entries reflects the change in attitude towards the importance of Scotland’s larder.
Choosing the winners was a big (albeit enjoyable!) task and we tasted and sampled so many exciting new things. The results will be announced on 23 October.
Making greater use of and taking more pride in our locally-sourced ingredients to create wonderful food and drink products right here in the region where they originate is definitely a better way forwards.
I am very proud to be playing a part in this and hope to see even more developments succeeding on the back of this brilliant Year of Food & Drink.
• Shirley Spear is chair of the Scottish Food Commission