Tuesday 21 October 2014
We are rightly proud of the role that the food and drink business sector has on boosting exports and promoting Scotland abroad, but are we doing enough to exploit growth opportunities in our domestic market?
The variety and quality of our food and drink was not readily associated with Scotland several years ago, but this perception is changing and the opportunities for businesses are extensive.
In Scotland, visitors spend 20p in every pound on food and drink and with nearly four million visitors to Edinburgh over the last year; our capital city is growing in stature as a dining destination. With over 100 new bars, cafes and restaurants opening last year it is not surprising that Edinburgh is the most popular city break destination outside London. Over 80% of visitors think about food when choosing a destination.
The growing demand for traditional dishes, regional specialties and local produce provides excellent opportunities for suppliers across Scotland. Our local suppliers should continue to be supported with coordinated marketing opportunities, supply chain efficiencies, including manageable trading terms.
The development of business opportunities through social media channels is key, as is demonstrated in the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce training programmes where social media is by far the most popular series of training courses to develop new sales channels and brand profile. Creating more consumer choice for local produce in our grocery retail outlets needs to be developed further.
As major grocery retailers and discount chains develop on our high streets, we must ensure that they strike the right balance between internationally sourced products and those from local suppliers.
More needs to be done to encourage more shelf presence of local brands, whilst respecting the need to have efficient supply chains and an acceptable consumer price. The role of the local trader is critical in the mix as is the growing trends towards farmers’ markets.
We must also continue to invest in our talent to ensure the quality matches the best internationally. Customer service expectations will continue to grow, whether it is one of Edinburgh’s five Michelin starred restaurants, or those attending Edinburgh’s Festivals, who spend over £37m on eating and drinking. Close collaboration with the education sector is key and across Edinburgh there continues to be market leading partnerships with all levels of education, nurturing both new talent and developing new skills for those already in employment.
Let’s make sure that the growing strength of Scotland’s outstanding larder overseas is equalled at home. We must ensure that with even closer working together between major brands, local businesses and education that we reach the hearts, and of course appetites, of both our local consumers and the ever increasing international visitors.
David Birrell, CEO at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce