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SPECIAL REPORT: FOOD & DRINK IN SCOTLAND culinary quest Cooking up a storm in the restaurant sector food for thought How the industry can reach its global potential honeypot effect The rise of tourist hotspots for foodie families


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CONTENTS

CONTACTS

04 news

room501 ltd Christopher March Managing Director e: chris@room501.co.uk Bryan Hoare Director e: bryan@room501.co.uk

The latest developments in Scotland’s food and drink industry

10 overview Focus on a sector facing the challenge of realising its true global potential

14 ship shape Seafood surge boosts entrepreneurial couple’s shoreline enterprise

22 live debate How can we maximise growth opportunities in food and drink?

28 on the rise Richard Lochhead MSP toasts the food and drink revolution

34 spreading out How a market town business conquered the pâté market

38 honeypot effect The growing appetite for tourist spots with food and drink at their heart

42 A fine balance Donnie Maclean’s adventure with his nutritionally conscious pizza empire

leap of faith bears fruit

46 FOOD & DRINK IN SCOTLAND

SPECIAL REPORT:

FOOD & DRINK IN SCOTLAND

WELCOME For the food and drink industry in Scotland, the story is extremely positive. Yes, there are challenges as there are in any sector – take salmon farming where growth is being stifled by the planning system. In the red meat sector there are also frustrations in that the demand for Scotch beef, lamb and pork is there, but farmers – after the worst winter for many years – are farming fewer animals. In terms of exports, there is a realisation that the industry needs to look beyond Europe. Food and drink is Scotland’s fastest-growing export sector but firms need to tap into emerging markets like China and the Middle East. Industry leadership organisation Scotland Food & Drink and Scottish Development International (SDI) are working in partnership to identify new markets and create solutions. There is also recognition within the sector that the Scottish Government is firmly on its side with Richard Lochhead MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, a proud standard-bearer for Scottish food and drink both at home and overseas. Before 2014, when Glasgow hosts the Commonwealth Games and other major events – the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and Homecoming Scotland – the industry is rallying to prepare for the opportunities that await.

EditorIAL Karen Peattie e: k.peattie@btopenworld.com Kenny Kemp BQ Scotland Editor e: editor@bq-scotland.co.uk Andrew Mernin e: andrew@room501.co.uk Design & production room501 e: studio@room501.co.uk Photography Chris Auld e: chris@chrisauldphotography.com Advertising For advertising call 0191 537 5720 or email sales@bq-magazine.co.uk

room501 Publishing Ltd, Spectrum 6, Spectrum Business Park, Seaham, SR7 7TT www.room501.co.uk room501 was formed from a partnership of directors who, combined, have many years of experience in contract publishing, print, marketing, sales and advertising and distribution. We are a passionate, dedicated company that strives to help you to meet your overall business needs and requirements. All contents copyright © 2013 room501 Ltd. All rights reserved. While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, no responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies, howsoever caused. No liability can be accepted for illustrations, photographs, artwork or advertising materials while in transmission or with the publisher or their agents. All information is correct at time of going to print, June 2013. room501 Publishing Ltd is part of BE Group, the UK’s market leading business improvement specialists. www.be-group.co.uk

Karen Peattie, Editor, BQ2 Special Report in association with

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BQ Magazine is published quarterly by room501 Ltd.

SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 13


NEWS

SUMMER 13

Island bakery grows global reach, glass raised to Tamdhu relaunch, brave move pays off for Scotty, not so chilli down south, something brewing at Eden, and sustainable smoked fish hits the market

>> Butcher expands online business Butcher Simon Howie has launched his famous Goodie Bags and Great Scottish Breakfast Packs online at www.thescottishbutcher.com. Previously only available over the counter at Simon Howie’s award-winning butcher shops in Auchterarder and Perth, the listing of the popular selection boxes online means that anyone in the UK (and around the world if they have a visiting relative) can now get the taste of Scottish meat delivered direct to their door. Simon Howie said: “Following the launch of our Goodie Bags in our shops earlier this year, demand has been such that we’re now making them available to order online throughout the UK. We’ve noticed a huge demand for our breakfast packs from Scots living in England who have been deprived of their regular Lorne sausage fix, so we can now serve them up a taste of home wherever they might be in the UK.” Meanwhile, Howie has invested in a comprehensive redesign of his Perth shop in response to a recent upsurge in demand from foodies keen to shop at independent local specialists. Located on the old High Street, within walking distance from the town centre, the butcher’s Perth shop is where Simon started work as a Saturday boy. “Recent months have seen a burgeoning trend for discerning customers to demand certainty about the provenance of their food,” he said. “Customers are increasingly demanding quality produce and, from what we have seen in Perth, are more prepared to travel in order to get what they want.”

>> Island bakery grows global reach Stag Bakeries, based in Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides, continues to show that an island location is no barrier to ambition by attracting interest from across the globe. Over the last three years the company has become known within speciality food circles as a brand associated with quality and integrity. It has invested in additional marketing activity

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and equipment, as well as completing a rebranding exercise to help attract additional export business. Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Scottish Development International (SDI) have assisted Stag with financial support towards project costs. In addition, a range of specialist advice on marketing, branding and packaging has been provided through HIE together with advice and guidance from the Food & Health

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Innovation Service, which has provided a strong foundation for the next stage in growth of the business. Stag produces a range of bakery and confectionery products for local customers but also a range of sweet and savoury biscuits for off-island markets. Last year, it established business in China and aims to increase its export business as this is where it sees the most lucrative growth prospects. Alasdair Maclean, Stag’s general manager, explained: “Customer feedback was telling us that our packaging was very Scottish in its design and had some limitations. In order to have a wider export appeal that reflected the premium nature of our products we needed to revamp it. We’re delighted with the new look which has involved a great deal of planning.” HIE’s Anne Macaulay added: “Stag Bakeries is one of the many businesses HIE has supported to develop international trade activity over the past year and is a good example of collaborative working between a range of partners. This support for ambitious businesses like Stag Bakeries is making a real difference to achieving growth aspirations, despite the economic climate, and in the coming year we will continue to maximise the unique strengths the Outer Hebrides has to ensure continued sustainable economic growth in the area.” Stag is now actively working on its export targets and should be making some further announcements over the next few months. Plans are in place to introduce some new products later in the year which reflect its commitment to innovation and product development.

People are more prepared to travel in order to get what they want

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promotions, competitions, VIP screenings, discount vouchers and mobile downloads. Set in the Scottish Highlands, the movie echoed Scotty Brand’s values of heritage, honesty and tradition. “With over 60% of shoppers’ decisions made in store and the fresh aisle being largely unbranded territory, an on-pack takeover was the winning ingredient in securing 565% sales uplift and 56% partnership awareness,” said marketing manager Michael Jarvis. The Scotty Brand product portfolio includes potatoes, carrots, lettuce, prepared vegetables, Ayrshire new potatoes and seasonal berries.

>> Tamdhu relaunches Speyside’s Tamdhu Distillery has relaunched with a new 10 year old single malt whisky. The malt, matured in oak sherry casks with natural Speyside water from the Tamdhu spring, is described as having “a softness of vanilla and sugared almonds on the nose balanced by fresh oak and cinnamon. Bursting with fruit and spice, which gently yields to toffee, there is a richness of sherry oak on the palate with a gentle hint of peat smoke wisp”. Distillery owner Ian Macleod Distillers brought in TV drinks expert Olly Smith for the occasion. The new dram, which comes in an elegant glass bottle in an eye-catching white and gold tube, is available from Waitrose, specialists and independents across the UK.

>> Brave move Scotty Brand, the umbrella brand for premium seasonal Scottish produce from leading Lanarkshire root vegetable supplier Albert Bartlett, has won a top award at the Marketing Society Awards for a brand tie-up with Disney-Pixar. The “Bravely Building Scotty Brand with an Epic Partnership” campaign clinched the Marketing Society Star Award’s integrated marketing category. It recognised the innovative collaboration with the Oscarwinning movie Brave, which included on-pack

FOOD & DRINK IN SCOTLAND

NEWS

this portfolio is the award-winning range of single malts from its very own Benromach Distillery. Stephen Rankin, director of UK sales, said: “The Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards are extremely important because they showcase the quality and diversity this region has to offer. As title sponsor, Gordon & MacPhail can help the industry build its reputation,” he added. “The Awards are very much associated with quality and innovation, and enable producers to demonstrate that being located in the Highlands & Islands is by no means a barrier to success.” The Awards, now in their ninth year and sporting a fresh new logo and website, recognise and reward the businesses which are displaying best practice, achieving exceptional standards and pushing boundaries in a key growth industry sector. Shortlisted finalists will be announced in mid-September with the awards dinner and ceremony taking place in Inverness on October 25.

>> Venison producer looks for future growth

>> Highland fling Gordon & MacPhail, the malt whisky specialist and specialist drinks wholesaler, is the official title sponsor of the 2013 Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards. The family-owned and managed business, established in Elgin in 1895, is one of the UK’s leading independent specialist wholesalers stocking over 4500 product lines, including an extensive wine list, an impressive portfolio of spirits and a wide range of craft beers and ciders. Gordon & MacPhail is also the UK’s top wholesaler for malt whisky, stocking every distillery bottling of single malt available in the UK market. Included in

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Pioneering Scottish venison business, Seriously Good Venison, has been rebranded to bring it into line with modernday perceptions of venison. Emphasising the artisan butchery skills of the company, combined with a clean, modern design, the new brand reflects the way Seriously Good Venison has watched public opinion on venison mature, as demand for venison has grown. The rebrand will also allow the business to diversify into other top-quality meats like lamb, beef and pork in the future. It is being rolled out this summer at trade shows and farmers’ markets. Sales of venison across the UK rose from £32 million in 2006 to £43 million in 2009 (source: Mintel) and consumption is growing by around 20%-25% year on year. The award-winning business operated under the name Fletchers of Auchtermuchty until last year when it was bought over by former manager, Vikki Banks. Seriously Good Venison is now run from larger, state-of-the-art

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NEWS

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premises in Tayside but still sources its venison from the original Fife farm, which continues its specially-formulated farming system with animal welfare at its heart. Banks said: “The heritage feel of our previous branding has stood the business in good stead for almost 40 years but in that time perceptions of venison have drastically changed. People are more aware than ever before that venison is a super-healthy meat, which is easy to fit into an everyday recipe repertoire. “Our new brand echoes the modern image of venison combined with the traditional values we maintain in our artisan approach to animal welfare and butchering skills.”

>> Top of the shops A convenience store in Aviemore has been named Scottish Local Retailer of the Year. Husband-and-wife team Gordon and Debbie Mair, who own and manage the Costcutter shop in the Highland village and ski resort, also won the Fresh & Chilled and Spirits Retailer categories in the 10th SLR Awards, presented in Glasgow in June.

>> Working up a thirst Consumers have another tool to help them live a healthier lifestyle with the recent launch of the innovative Hydro Meter app from Glasgow-based wholesaler JW Filshill, owner of the KeyStore convenience store brand. A collaboration with Highland Spring – the leading UK-produced brand of bottled water – the free app for iPhones enables consumers to monitor their water consumption on the go, showing them how hydrated they are by providing eight notifications throughout the day until they are 100% hydrated. Using geofencing technology, it also alert shoppers when they are within 500 metres of a KeyStore and notifies them of any exclusive Highland Spring promotions available in the store at that particular time, such as two 750ml bottles for £1. Consumers, who can download the app via a QR code on POS

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>> Excellence in food and drink St James Smokehouse, the Annan-based producer of quality smoked salmon products, has been named both Business of the Year and Export Business of the Year in the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards. Brendan Maher, the company’s co-founder, was also named Scottish Food & Drink Entrepreneur at the prestigious awards, widely regarded as the industry “Oscars”, in Edinburgh at the end of May. Product of the Year went to the Perthshire-based chocolatier Iain Burnett – The Highland Chocolatier for his Velvet Truffles and Spiced Pralines, while a special award was unveiled on the night for Outstanding Achievement in Food & Drink for Paul Grant MBE of Angus preserves producer, Mackays. The award was presented by Richard Lochhead MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment. Winners in the 17 categories celebrating excellence across the industry included established brands like Scotty Brand and Dean’s of Huntly although young businesses and small companies with new brands like Mama Tea and Hebridean Sea Salt were also recognised. Other awards went to The Smokehouse in Aberdeenshire, Rannoch Smokery, The Orkney Brewery, Taste of Arran, Katy Rodger’s Artisan, Plenta Foods, AK Stoddart, Mackintosh of Glendaveny and The Store, Aberdeenshire. The awards are organised by Scotland Food & Drink in partnership with The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS).

in-store which takes them straight to the App Store, can also use it to make “brag” posts on Facebook and Twitter. The initiative represents a major investment for JW Filshill and recognises steps being taken by the Scottish Government to encourage Scots to adopt a healthier lifestyle and drink less alcohol. Simon Hannah, managing director of JW Filshill, Scotland’s oldest independent food and drink wholesaler, said: “The app forms part of a robust consumer-facing marketing strategy in 2013 which will see us working closely with our suppliers to offer keen deals and promotions that are exclusive to KeyStore.”

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>> Not so chilli down south SIMPLYaddCHILLI has won a listing in Booths, the upmarket Preston-based supermarket group. The Mild, Wild and Extreme SIMPLYaddCHILLI products, the creation of Glasgow-based Susan McCann’s Lochbroom Fine Foods, are a combination of chillies and strawberries that are fat-free with no added salt, colours, preservatives or artificial flavours. In addition to Booths, SIMPLYaddCHILLI is listed in all Waitrose stores in Scotland and the muchlauded Whole Foods Markets in Glasgow. The products are also popular at farmers’ markets, where McCann first started selling them.

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COMPANY PROFILE

Sponsorship is food for thought in Scotland’s year of sport Victoria Moore explains why 2014 presents the perfect opportunity for the food and drink sector. These are exciting times for the Scottish food and drink sector. Last year exports topped £5.3 billion, and a target has been set for this figure to rise to £7.1 billion by 2017. There is no doubt that this is one of the most dynamic and successful sectors of the Scottish economy. While there are many challenges with which to contend - such as a changing regulatory environment, rising commodity prices and consumer price pressure - there are also significant opportunities to grow our export markets further in the months and years ahead. One such opportunity on which Brodies is providing advice to a growing number of clients is sponsorship. 2014 is shaping up to be Scotland’s year of sport. With our country hosting the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, the eyes of the world will be on Scotland. This will present a golden opportunity for the food, drink and hospitality sectors to raise the international profile of their brands by associating them with these word-class sporting events and by seizing the opportunity for export growth that this new audience presents. Our Intellectual Property and Corporate team is ideally placed to advise you on how best to exploit and protect your brand when entering into a sponsorship agreement. These agreements need to be clear about what rights the brand owner is getting - for example, how and where their branding is displayed and what restrictions are placed on the event organiser in terms of rights granted to other sponsors. In addition, how the sponsorship agreement deals with infringement of intellectual property and what steps will be taken to protect the brand in the event of disreputable actions or bad publicity are key considerations and the basis for commercial discussion. Whether you’re a manufacturer, distiller, producer, retailer, supplier or customer, Brodies understands

FOOD & DRINK IN SCOTLAND

Our Intellectual Property and Corporate team is ideally placed to advise you on how best to exploit and protect your brand when entering into a sponsorship agreement Victoria Moore

the importance you place on issues such as branding; commodity prices; sustainability and environment; quality and origin of products; product development and regulatory compliance. Brodies is a member of Scotland Food and Drink and, with more leading practitioners than any other firm in Scotland, we can offer commerciallyfocused, expert advice on any legal issue your business might face. We work with a wide variety of clients both on one-off projects and on an ongoing basis.

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If you would like more information about our Intellectual Property and Corporate team, please contact Victoria Moore on 0141 245 6740 or victoria.moore@brodies.com Brodies LLP has offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Brussels. www.brodies.com

SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 13


NEWS

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>> Healthy food for all

>> Sustainable smoked fish hits the market Arbroath-based family business RR Spink & Sons is harnessing over 300 years of expertise and innovation to launch a new brand of sustainable smoked fish. Prepared using Scottish loch trout and salmon, the new brand targets “consumers who are passionate about the quality and provenance of their food”. All handmade with the finest, natural ingredients, the four products in the range also use native British woods for smoking. The products are: Delicious Loch Etive Smoked Trout; Kiln Roast Loch Etive Smoked Trout; Finest Scottish Smoked Salmon; and Kiln Roasted Smoked Salmon. Available in independent and specialist retailers and delis nationwide, the new brand also carries the endorsement of a Royal Warrant as fishmonger to HM The Queen.

Scottish retailers are to receive more help to promote healthier food options in convenience stores following a £300,000 injection of Scottish Government funding. The Healthy Living Programme, jointly funded by the Scottish Government and Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF), the trade association that helped launch the initiative in 2004, provides shops with the means to display and promote more fresh, healthy produce. More than 1200 SGF members are now signed up to the scheme but under this latest round of funding the plan is to target expansion of membership, encouraging hospital shops and

restaurants to get on board. Members will also be encouraged to engage more with young people, helping them make healthier choices by promoting healthier “meal deal” choices. SGF chief executive John Drummond welcomed the funding: “It will help retailers invest time, money and their expertise to promote an expanded range of healthier products. As responsible retailers we are committed to being part of the solution to Scotland’s obesity problem.” The announcement of further funding for the Healthy Living Programme comes as revised Scottish dietary goals are published, following a commitment in Recipe for Success – Scotland’s National Food and Drink Policy.

>> Something brewing A Fife-based microbrewery specialising in wood-matured beers has announced plans to invest £300,000 to double its production capacity so it can keep pace with demand. The Eden Brewery, established by former Molson Coors sales chief Paul Miller on the site of a former paper mill at Guardbridge, near St Andrews less than a year ago, has seen demand outstrip supply and is on course to increase turnover from £500,000 in its first full year to around £2m in 2014. Eden’s Oak Wood Series, a portfolio of ales aged in rum, bourbon and whisky barrels, is proving so popular that the brewer has been forced to temporarily outsource production to Traditional Scottish Ales in Stirling.

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>> ‘Round the Table’ with Carol Sunny celebrity Carol Smillie is the face of a campaign to encourage people to rediscover the benefits of taking time to prepare food and eat together with family and friends, away from the distraction of the TV and mobile phones. The TV personality and mum of three is one of the many famous Scots who have contributed a favourite recipe for a new cookbook published by Quality Meat Scotland as part of the campaign. ‘Round the Table’, a full-colour, hardback cookbook edited by Karen Peattie, features simple, delicious beef, lamb and pork recipes from celebrities such as actor Ewan McGregor, TV presenter Lorraine Kelly and football legend Sir Alex Ferguson. Profits from the sale of the book will go to raise funds for children’s charities CHAS and CHILDREN 1ST. Carol Smillie’s own recipe – oriental-inspired Spicy Lamb – also features in the book. “Sitting down to enjoy a meal together is a precious moment of family interaction which shouldn’t be, but often is, taken for granted,” she says. “I hope this fantastic cookbook helps to rekindle some of those precious family occasions that are such a valuable part of family life.” With an RRP of £10, the book is available at selected Waterstones.

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OVERVIEW

SUMMER 13

Industry voice: James Withers, chief executive, Scotland Food & Drink

SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 13

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FOOD & DRINK IN SCOTLAND


SUMMER 13

OVERVIEW

time to feast on new opportunities

Confidence is growing and momentum building in Scotland’s booming food and drink sector, but challenges remain if the industry is to reach its true global potential, writes Karen Peattie It’s a key business driver for Scotland, up there with energy, life sciences, financial services and tourism to name just a few. With one in five people in Scottish manufacturing working in the sector, food and drink makes a very significant contribution to the economy and, indeed, some remote communities rely on it. Crucially, there are remarkable levels of innovation within the industry at the moment and nowhere was this more evident than at the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards in Edinburgh recently, where no-one could have failed to be impressed by the exciting, new products showcased by both our up-andcoming producers and our more established companies. There can be no doubt that industry leadership organisation, Scotland Food & Drink, is playing a pivotal role in the industry’s growth. With a 28% increase in sales of Scottish brands in the UK and a 50% rise in food exports taking total food and drink turnover to £12.4bn, the body is already 99% of the way to achieving its target of growing the value of the industry to £12.5bn by 2017. In fact, it is on course to reach this target, considered ambitions at the time, this year. With aspirations to position Scotland among the world’s top producers of premium food and drink products, Scotland Food & Drink has always been bold in its ambitions and aspirations, setting out its stall clearly and concisely when it was launched by Richard Lochhead MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, back in 2007. Getting the industry on board has been a gradual process and membership levels, over 330 companies, perhaps seem lower

FOOD & DRINK IN SCOTLAND

than they could. But as James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, rightly points out: “Building membership is a challenge for any business or trade organisation and it is down to individual companies to make their membership work for them. I take the view that if we are doing the right thing, food and drink companies will show their support for us through membership. I believe that the industry should be funding a leadership body. We now have the majority of turnover in food and drink within membership which is a great achievement in just six years. “We’re now 27% funded by Scottish Enterprise so we do need the financial stability and ongoing support of membership.” One plus side of membership is that companies can help shape the direction of the industry. “We’ve recently gone through a review which involved getting views from the coalface of our industry – that’s really important because we hear members’ concerns, they tell us where they need more help,” says Withers. “But they also tell us about their successes and what they’ve been doing – we can then share that information with others members. “We’re at a really good stage in our own development now with an executive team of 17 and partners who are all singing from the same hymn sheet,” he goes on. “Geographically it’s a challenge but we are trying to spend more face-to-face time with individual members and up our game as far as communication is concerned. All partnerships evolve in time – ours is no different.” The Scotland Food & Drink partnership includes, among others, the Scotch Whisky

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Association (SWA), Quality Meat Scotland, Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO), NFU Scotland, Scottish Food and Drink Federation (SFDF), Seafish, Seafood Scotland, Dairy UK, Improve (food and drink sector skills council) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). “These partners are at the heart of the organisation and we can learn from them, too,” Withers points out. “Take the SWA. They are hugely supportive and can teach us a lot about exporting but we can also take inspiration from the whisky industry when it comes to innovation and reinventing itself. Look at all the new distilleries starting up just now – that gives the rest of the food and drink industry confidence.” From a consumer perspective, meanwhile, food is very much in focus, chiming with Scotland Food & Drink’s “premium, provenance and health” mantra. Farmers’ markets across the country are proving resilient amid the recession while farm shops are increasingly adopting >>

Yes, our home markets are important but they are mature markets and our companies have to look elsewhere for growth SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 13


OVERVIEW

SUMMER 13

a dual role as outlets where consumers can purchase fresh, local food products but also as “destinations” – places to go with the family where there might also be a café/restaurant, gift shop and other attractions such as farm trails, pick-your-own fruit and children’s play areas. Ahead of 2014 when Glasgow hosts the Commonwealth Games and two other major events – the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and Homecoming Scotland – collaboration has never been more important, suggests Withers. “We’re a collaborative organisation and this approach has been instrumental in enhancing our reputation both at home and overseas. But we want to be more collaborative – we need to be. We need to maximise growth opportunities and keep our national and international trading momentum high.” Of course, the other big event in 2014 is the referendum on independence. It’s something Scotland Food & Drink must consider, like everyone else. “Obviously we can’t take a position,” Withers points out, “but we do have to engage in the discussion. Organisations like ours have a responsibility to ask questions. Clearly, we are not going to get all the facts before the outcome of the referendum and I’m aware that there are mixed views within the food and drink industry but one of the repeated questions is, ‘Is it going to change business relationships with customers in England?’ “Whatever the outcome in September 2014, it won’t affect our strategy or aims for the industry. I’m actually quite relaxed about it because we have a strong industry that will continue to grow – I don’t see anything we’re doing being knocked off the rails.” According to Withers, the food and drink industry is very much the “jewel in the crown of the Scottish economy” just now with 2014 shaping up to be an extraordinary year. In fact, 2014 is one of the reasons Withers left farmers’ union NFU Scotland, where he was also chief executive, to join Scotland Food & Drink. But he urges caution: “We’re all talking about 2014 and the opportunities but its success won’t be measured next year – it will be measured in the years to come and we need to recognise that the impact of next year will have to be sustained.”

SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 13

For Withers, who has become a highly respected and articulate figurehead for the industry, the really big opportunities lie overseas. “Yes, our home markets are important but they are mature markets and our companies have to look elsewhere for growth,” he says. “With the support of Scottish Development International (SDI), which has resources in 25 countries around the world, exporting is the real game-changer for our food and drink companies. “The UK market is tough and customers are tough and it will always be important, but there is far more growth potential in export markets, particularly emerging ones like China and the Middle East,” he continues. “But there are challenges. We need to be better at the practical support in getting product to these markets and we need to improve the commercial support – there’s a hell of a lot of work to be done. “For example, we are currently looking at

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pulling together like-minded companies to export together. This will be important because we are an industry made up largely of SMEs so we lack scale. We also need to look at how we move product globally with the lowest possible carbon footprint. We also need to be looking to countries which are doing exports well for inspiration – New Zealand is a great example. We do need some ongoing dedicated funding to support this export activity.” Indeed, SDI is helping more Scottish companies than ever before branch into overseas trading markets. SDI worked with 2096 companies to develop their international business, representing a 52% increase from last year. As a joint venture, SDI also operates on behalf of HIE where 156 companies were supported overseas last year – an increase of almost 50% from the previous year. Anne MacColl, SDI chief executive, comments: “It’s vital that we continue to raise our international aspirations and encourage

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more and more Scottish companies to think globally. Tapping into international markets can transform an established business and, more significantly, play a key role in adding economic value and jobs to the Scottish economy. Our results show that these messages are hitting home with Scottish businesses and they’re getting braver at exporting.” The most recent annual export results show that, of the 2000-plus companies supported by SDI, 280 of them were from the food and drink sector. While the majority of demand for SDI support is still focused on EU markets, last year saw an increase of almost 60% in the number of companies across all economic sectors receiving support to target markets in Asia. Farmed salmon, Scotland’s largest food export, now has a worldwide retail value in excess of £1 billion. Over 60 countries imported fresh Scottish salmon in 2011. Yet there are frustrations within the industry, as Scott Landsburgh, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, explains: “Planning is a problem. We could easily increase production. In fact, every salmon we produce we could sell today never mind tomorrow. We could double production. Ten years ago we produced 152,000 tonnes of salmon and this year we will produce 152,000 tonnes of salmon. “We are flatlining – we’re not going anywhere. In world terms we’re in reverse and that’s down to the fact that we can’t get development planning. We’ve got the money for it but it is very difficult to unlock the planning system in certain parts of Scotland. We are addressing that, obviously, but it is a frustration and very slow process.” Meanwhile, what the industry also has is entrepreneurial spirit in abundance. And food and drink, suggests Withers, is a much more attractive place to be now, fuelling the creativity of ambitious, driven individuals. He points to mentoring within the industry as “invaluable”. The Saltire Foundation, for example, is offering an opportunity for individuals to join the 2013 Saltire Fellowship as a Food & Drink Fellow. Valued at £27,000 and offering up to 90% funding, the programme is targeting candidates who are typically early to mid-career entrepreneurs or

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potential business leaders with at least four years’ work experience and an openness to learning from new experiences. “Traditionally, it has been difficult to convince people that they can have a good career with prospects in the food and drink industry,” says Withers. “The SFDF is doing sterling work in this area and there’s more information out there now than there’s ever been. There’s engagement with schools from many of our partners and that’s absolutely crucial. But we need more mentoring and people who are willing to share the benefits of their success and experience. “Again, it comes back to collaboration. Collaboration works and it’s very much the way forward for our industry.” For example, Scotland Food & Drink’s Meet the Buyer (MTB) events, part of its well-established Access To Markets business support service aimed at helping food and drink companies access new routes to UK markets, continue to be well received and are open to nonmembers. Other services available under the Access to Markets programme include buyer briefings, learning journeys, supplier development programmes, and trade and consumer exhibitions. The organisation’s much-lauded INSIGHTS initiative provides information, intelligence and knowledge for the Scottish food and drink industry, much of it available online and available to non-members. Other member benefits range from technical assistance and help with recruitment to marketing, PR and branding support. “We’re providing help in areas that some companies wouldn’t necessarily think about,” Withers points out. “If you require technical assistance, for example, we can help get things moving more quickly because we know exactly who to speak to – smaller companies might not know where to start or have the time to research what they need to do.” With more people talking about food and drink and companies themselves increasingly willing to talk about their successes, the industry is primed for growth despite the economic uncertainties surrounding the independence debate and other challenges facing specific sectors. Regulation within the drinks industry is another issue.

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It’s vital that we continue to raise our international aspirations and encourage more and more Scottish companies to think globally While retailers, meanwhile, are being forced to deal with increasing layers of legislation, they are also working hard in response to the growing consumer appetite for more Scottish products and locally-sourced produce. Scotmid Food, for example, is expanding its partnerships with local bakery suppliers after a number of successful roll-outs of in-store bakeries across Edinburgh and the Lothians, Fife and the west of Scotland. The convenience-store retailer has refitted stores with fresh and hot bakery counters offering cakes, savouries and baked goods, while other stores now stock locally-made speciality breads. Working with Dunfermlinebased Stephens the Bakers, Goodfellow & Steven of Dundee, Aulds in the west and The Breadwinner Bakery in Edinburgh, Scotmid is now rolling out the concept across its estate. “We want to be famous for our bakery offer across Scotland,” explains Colin McLean, chief operating officer. “We’re a Scottish retailer with a rich heritage going back over 150 years and we want to get that local message across to customers who use our 350 stores. With our bakery approach, we are doing something no-one else is doing and reaching out to our customers – it’s a very exciting development for us.” With forward-thinking collaborations like Scotmid’s helping to create new business for suppliers and build confidence, Scotland’s food and drink sector will grow in stature and reputation – and that’s good for all sectors of the industry. n

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riding high on the good ship scotland Growing demand for quality seafood sourced from Scottish waters is helping to keep one entrepreneurial couple’s business in good health in Edinburgh, writes Karen Peattie Walk into The Ship on the Shore, the Edinburgh seafood restaurant and champagne bar, and you can almost smell the sea. Initially, it’s like taking a step back in time with its dark wood interiors and sea-related themes but closer inspection reveals a more sophisticated ambience with sparkling champagne on ice, crisp, white tablecloths and elegant art hanging on the walls. Sitting casually at the bar are owners Murray and Tracey Georgeson, doing what they do best – chatting to customers and discussing the catch of the day. Today, however, it is not langoustines. “It’s been difficult to get good langoustines just now,” explains Murray. “The best ones are going down south or for export and are in short supply as a result of the jet stream being below Spain, which means Scottish waters are really cold. “The climate has a big impact on crustaceans although as far as I’m aware this is the first time we’ve had this particular problem for

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at least 35 years. We could use others but the quality’s not the same and we would never compromise on quality because it’s our reputation that’s at stake. Colder water also means that oysters will be smaller this year.” Will customers ordering the restaurant’s showpiece Fruit de Mer Royale be disappointed? Probably not, given the rest of the sea’s bounty that comes with it – whole Scottish lobsters, oysters, brown crab claws, spoots, dressed brown crab, smoked salmon, clams, mussels, Arbroath Smokie and king scallops. With a bottle of house champagne to enjoy with it, this is one culinary extravaganza that doesn’t come cheap yet it is hugely popular, particularly with those celebrating a special occasion. Also popular with diners are The Ship’s speciality smokehouse platters, cited by Rocco Forte Hotels director Olga Polizzi as one of “30 Things To Eat Before You Die” in The Times magazine. “That sort of praise is >>

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Scottish food doesn’t have to be so traditionally Scottish all the time

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unexpected but always welcome because it creates a bit of interest,” says Tracey. “People read it and think, ‘I want to try that’. We’re reviewed quite often – sometimes you know it’s happening, sometimes you don’t and you have to grit your teeth and take a deep breath if a review isn’t quite what you would like it to be.” Murray adds: “We’ve had some great reviews and been featured in the likes of The Guardian when we were listed as one of the 10 best restaurants in Edinburgh. That was a really great accolade. I think I worry more about these things than Tracey because no-one likes criticism but then I’ll remember that this is just one individual’s opinion – and the views of our customers are much more important. “We do a fantastic seafood paella and one critic questioned why a Scottish seafood restaurant would have a Spanish dish on the menu – that annoyed me because the point of the dish is that it’s our take on paella, using amazing Scottish seafood and shellfish. People love it and that’s all that matters.” One customer who clearly does like what The Ship has to offer is the Michelin-star chef Tom Kitchin, another Leith restaurateur who pops in regularly with his family. “Tom was away filming and brought in the legendary chef Pierre Koffmann to look after The Kitchin,” says Murray. “He came here to dine – now that was pressure because I was in the kitchen that night myself and we had a couple of big parties in as well.” Murray doesn’t cook so much these days – he leaves his kitchen in the capable hands of head chef Willie Lonnie, who joined the business not long after it opened. “The thing about Willie is that he shares our passion and wants perfection in the kitchen,” says Murray. “If he’s not happy with it, it won’t make it to the table. He’s also a great ideas guy. Although much of our food is actually quite simple, it’s great to introduce new and unexpected flavours – diners like that. “We incorporate a lot of Asian flavours, for example, because they marry well with fish,” Murray explains. “Our mussel and smoked Aberdeen haddock pakora with lime yoghurt is a good example of this but some dishes have French influences. Scottish food doesn’t have to be so traditionally Scottish all the

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time. People travel and eat different food when they’re on holiday so why wouldn’t they welcome the opportunity to try something a little different back at home?” Influenced themselves by places they visit all over the world, Murray and Tracey came up with their idea for a seafood restaurant and champagne bar after a trip to Spain. “We both love seafood and we both love champagne so we thought if we could turn our passion into a business, it would be perfect for us,” explains Tracey. “The Ship came up for sale seven years ago and everything started to take shape from there.” For Murray, the story is quite a remarkable one as he actually managed The Ship back in 1988 when it first opened. “I always liked The Ship – its location, the atmosphere and the people,” he says. “I moved about a bit and did some other things then had the tenancy of the King’s Wark along the road for 12 years, but this was a chance to branch out completely on our own. I’ve got 30 years’ experience in the hospitality industry and worked in pubs, hotels and cocktail bars but nothing gives you more satisfaction than running your own business.” In the early days, Murray – a self-taught chef – did all the cooking although he concedes that Tracey was “the backbone of the business, in the kitchen peeling spuds and washing dishes”. She laughs: “It seems such a long time ago now but you do everything you have to do to get your business started and you work the long hours without much time off or holidays. It’s hard but it’s the same for everyone trying to establish a new business.” When the couple bought The Ship it was trading predominantly as a bar serving beer and food. “We changed things quite gradually because we didn’t want to alienate existing customers but we explained to people what we were doing,” Murray points out. “We did little cosmetic things to start with – freshening things up, changing some of the décor, that type of thing – because we weren’t in a position to close down for weeks on end. Structurally, everything was sound.” More recently, however, The Ship did close for three weeks to allow an extension and full refurbishment of the kitchen. “It was long overdue because it was so small,” says Tracey. “When Murray was the chef he was

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largely in there on his own. Willie has another four chefs working for him now and with the other kitchen staff it was just too small. To say he’s delighted with the outcome is an understatement. We’ve even been able to give him a window!” The couple secured a £60,000 agreement with Santander Corporate & Commercial to finance the work. “When we first spoke to Santander we got an instant feeling that they really understood us and our business,” says Murray. “We were surprised – pleasantly surprised, in fact – that they took such an interest and

Provenance is hugely important to us and customers are increasingly asking us where their food is from wanted to learn more about us and how we operate. “They came to the restaurant several times to see us when others simply weren’t interested and that instilled great confidence in us. “We have a very simple approach here and I think that appealed to Santander. We’re absolutely delighted with the way things have worked out and looking forward to further strengthening the relationship in the future.” There is still some more decorating work to be carried out and some other subtle tweaks, all under the watchful eye of Tracey, a former lecturer in education and arts at Telford College in Edinburgh. Her artistic and creative influence can be seen throughout The Ship, not least in her decision to display art by her brother, Davy Macdonald, whose original oil paintings adorn the walls throughout the premises. His work is a celebration of the Belle Époque era which captures the essence

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of a period when glamour, elegance and sophistication took centre stage. With menus that change daily depending on the season and availability, The Ship is an outstanding champion for the Scottish food and drink industry. “Let’s face it, Scotland has the finest seafood in the world,” Murray points out, recalling a recent holiday in Dubai when he complimented a restaurant for its delicious scallops. “The waiter said they were from Scotland – I think that sums it up!” Some 95% of The Ship’s seafood is Scottish and supplied daily by Gary Welch, one of Edinburgh’s oldest-established traditional fish merchants. The Ship also has its own Bunnahabhain smoked salmon – smoked by Welch to Murray and Tracey’s recipe – and is a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association. Meanwhile, the Georgesons use other locallysourced products such as organic eggs from Phantassie Farm in East Lothian. Bread is baked using traditional French methods and supplied by Le Petit Francais while wines and champagnes are supplied by Fife-based l’Art du Vin. “Provenance is hugely important to us,” Tracey explains. “Customers are increasingly asking us where their food comes from and our staff are always able to tell them. It’s something else that gives us a point of difference over other restaurants and it also makes the customer’s experience more memorable – every little thing helps and it’s that attention to detail that makes all the difference. With simple, fresh food that is beautifully presented and friendly, efficient staff who are knowledgeable about the food they serve, you can’t go wrong, in our opinion.” With the key summer tourism season kicking in and hopes of a boom in the number of visitors coming to Scotland next year for the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and Homecoming Scotland, the Georgesons are confident that business will continue on its present upward curve. Good weather is also a bonus. “I know how unpredictable the hospitality industry can be but I think we’ve got the recipe just right here,” suggests Murray. “We’re looking ahead with confidence and see an exciting future for The Ship.” n

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michelin man on the march

The culinary business Martin Wishart cooked up on the back of a recession 15 years ago is now rapidly expanding into an empire as it spreads its reach across Scotland. Karen Peattie meets the leading chef to uncover the ingredients of his success >>

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Martin Wishart may well be one of the UK’s leading chefs and recipient of two Michelin stars but this reserved restaurateur sees himself as the director of a finely-tuned orchestra rather than the soloist. What’s more, he prefers to let his food do the talking. For starters, he’s a shrewd businessman intent on expanding his culinary portfolio which currently includes Restaurant Martin Wishart on The Shore in Edinburgh’s Port of Leith, its sister restaurant at the five-star Cameron House on Loch Lomond, contemporary Frenchstyle brasserie The Honours in the capital’s New Town and Cook School by Martin Wishart, just five minutes’ from the restaurant in Leith. Wishart doesn’t necessarily display it outwardly but he is excited about the way in which his business is moving forward – a trip north to Aberdeen to check out premises for a potential new brasserie that would trade under The Honours name is imminent. And as young daughters Clara, eight, and six-year-

The Honours, has also proved invaluable to the business. Wishart opened his eponymous restaurant in Leith back in 1999, winning his first Michelin star two years later and, crucially, retaining it every year since. Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond, which opened in 2009, received its first Michelin star in 2011. Even for a chef at the very top of his game this is no mean feat. Again, Wishart plays down his success, pointing to the support of the people around him and those who have inspired him as being equally deserving of the Michelin accolade. “When you have a Michelin star or win any award, for that matter, it helps pull people into your restaurant and gives your team a great morale boost,” he says. “People start to talk about you and of course that’s going to be good for business. However, I didn’t open my restaurant to get a Michelin star.” He’s certainly had a colourful and varied career to date, leaving school at 15 to work

I can always spot a spark of talent in my kitchen and if that spark is there, I want to develop it

old Amy play quietly at a corner table – it’s school holiday week – Wishart talks about the challenges of growing a business like his. “It needs to be manageable and you need to have good people around you,” he points out. “Hospitality isn’t an easy business to be in – you need to be tenacious and you need to be patient; success doesn’t come overnight and you quickly learn how hard you have to work.” In Wishart’s case, wife and business partner Cecile is very much the backbone of the business, looking after the wider business aspect of the group. Restaurant manager Jean-Christophe Frogé is also a key member of the team and responsible for front of house at Leith, while Graeme Cheevers is head chef at Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond, Paul Tamburrini is head chef at The Honours and Kevin Ramsay the principal tutor at the Cook School. Steven Spear, restaurant manager at

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in a kitchen on a YTS scheme. No-one expects Wishart to wash dishes these days although it’s a task that is no way beneath him as subsequent years training under such renowned chefs as Albert Roux, Marco Pierre White and John Burton-Race taught him. “It’s all about respect,” he says. “Everyone has their job in a busy kitchen but you all muck in when needs be and it’s important to encourage young people and nurture them – if you don’t gain their respect you’ll turn them off.” It’s an issue very close to Wishart’s heart. As someone who started at the bottom himself it is important to him now that he takes on the role of mentor. In 2008, for example, he launched the Scottish Food Scholarship to develop and encourage talented young chefs across Scotland. “We created a real buzz with this and got great publicity which raised awareness of our

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profession but you need a lot of funding to keep something like that going,” says Wishart, somewhat wearily. “You also need to put a lot of time and energy into it and that’s not always easy when your own business needs even more of your time and energy. But we ran it for four years and I think we made a difference.” Yet Wishart’s desire to nurture up-and-coming talent is probably even stronger now. “I can always spot a spark of talent in my kitchen and if that spark is there, I want to develop it,” he explains. “When I see it, I immerse that person in what we do to see how they respond then put them under the wing of another member of the team to help build their confidence and learn as much possible. “The next stage will be to move them to a specific section – the cheese trolley, for example. They have to choose the cheese and take control of the stock levels, do reports and so on. They have to taste the cheese and know the cheese. It’s like giving them a mini business to run and when they rise to the challenge it’s great to see.” Meanwhile, he is working with the hospitality department at Edinburgh’s Telford College and has already given three former students full-time employment, one of whom is still working in Restaurant Martin Wishart. He is also talking to Queen Margaret University about establishing an apprenticeship scheme. “Training and the way we train people has changed in recent years because of the internet,” he points out. “I believe that it’s more effective to train someone in their place of work, with the academic side being done online.” Wishart points to David Wither, founder of the highly successful Montpeliers (Edinburgh) group of boutique hotels, bars and restaurants, including Tigerlily and the Opal Lounge. He has developed an online training business – Flow Hospitality Training – to offer a range of interactive modules covering all of the fundamental areas of service and legislative training for the hospitality sector. “We’ve incorporated this model into The Honours and it’s proved extremely effective in helping us monitor the progress we’re making in staff training,” Wishart points out. “I don’t think you have to do everything yourself >>

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Hospitality isn’t an easy business to be in. You need to be tenacious patient; success doesn’t come overnight and if someone with the experience of David Wither is forward-thinking enough to create a package like this in an area as important as training then you’d be crazy not to use it.” Michelin stars or no Michelin stars, Wishart’s aim is to give every diner an amazing experience – food, of course, service and ambience. He doesn’t want people to come to Leith or Loch Lomond and feel intimidated. Take Restaurant Martin Wishart, for example. Its somewhat understated exterior and airy but elegant interior immediately make customers feel at home. Regular diners and tourists sit comfortably alongside business diners. “We have a real mix of customers,” says Frogé, the restaurant manager. “This week, we are really busy with a lot of Chinese tourists and we’re gearing up for graduation time when we’re always fully booked. It’s good to have such a diverse customer base, particularly for the front of house staff because we get to meet so many different people – we are very much a people business, after all.” Many come because they want to dine in Edinburgh’s first Michelin-star restaurant and experience Wishart’s legendary modern French cuisine, lovingly prepared and presented using the finest Scottish ingredients. Orkney scallops and Shetland monkfish rub shoulders on his menus with prime fillet of Scotch Beef, and locally-sourced vegetables and herbs – and if he’s not personally satisfied with the produce, it won’t reach the plate. Is it difficult to source locally and seasonally? Not if you keep things really simple, suggests Wishart. “I think we can all get carried away when we talk about ‘local’ because some products simply aren’t available

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locally,” he points out. “With fish, ‘local’ to me means that it comes from around the Scottish coastline but first and foremost you need to find a reputable and reliable supplier – you can’t afford to be let down because then you let your customers down and that’s bad for your business and reputation. “Seasonality is another issue,” Wishart continues. “Take the game season in Scotland – it’s unique because you can source grouse from August through to February, then pheasant and woodcock, both of which are fantastic meats. We should all be making much more of game. What is important, though, is consistency of product and for some small suppliers that can be quite difficult. “Staff also need to be knowledgeable and that can be a challenge, particularly during a busy service when a customer is asking questions about provenance. They already have a lot to focus on and everything requires training and tasting and experiencing the menus, certainly in our case. But it can still be kept simple: if you mention a farm, know where that farm is and if you have a particular cut of meat on the menu, such as pork tenderloin, make sure staff have tasted the dish so they can discuss its flavour and texture if asked.” Meanwhile, another crucial aspect of the Leith restaurant is the fact that Wishart is there, in the kitchen, pretty much most of the time. It is very much the hub of his culinary empire with Graeme Cheevers the face of Cameron House and Tamburrini in charge at The Honours. “I spend a lot of time with Graeme, Paul and the rest of the team coming up with new ideas and because we all work so well together it’s a strategy that works,” says Wishart. “It’s satisfying introducing something new to the menu after we’ve worked on it for a while and fine-tuned it – that’s when you get that buzz and that’s what spurs you on to the next thing.” Wishart reveals that he has been experimenting with an American juice extractor, using fresh peas that retain all their nutritional value and flavour. He also plans to use it to experiment with potential replacements for meat juices. That business hat goes on again: “It’s about doing something different, something others aren’t doing,” he explains, “and if it can also help you rein in your costs, then it’s even better.”

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Years of working and travelling overseas have taught this most enterprising of chefs not to fear change or taking the occasional risk. After all, when he opened Restaurant Martin Wishart almost 15 years ago it was on the back of a recession. Working in Europe, the USA and Australia with some of the world’s most successful chefs, he has been inspired not just by individuals but by restaurants, and their design and location. “Great food is one thing but if you’re not serving it in the right location with the right décor and fantastic service, it’s not going to work.” He cites The Honours as a prime example, inspired by visits to French brasseries, including one in Bordeaux where he enjoyed exceptional food at very reasonable prices. “I reckoned something like this would work really well in Edinburgh, a less formal restaurant where diners can relax but still count on amazing food without paying Michelin-star prices.” The fact Wishart is now considering expanding this franchise into both Aberdeen and Glasgow suggests that customers agree with his philosophy. It may well be a departure from his fine-dining background but Wishart is a canny Scot and knows there is only room for so many Michelin-star restaurants in Edinburgh. As Scotland gears up for 2014 with the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup, Wishart would like to see the wider hospitality adopt a little more pizzazz. “Let’s believe in ourselves a little bit more,” he urges. “When you go to somewhere like New York there’s an excitement that we just don’t have here – I think we’re doing well and the food and drink industry is in a good place just now but we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back too much because there’s still a long way to go. “The Government is trying but our industry still needs more encouragement. It’s all very well talking about 2014 and everything that’s happening next year but it’s only one block on the calendar and we need to look beyond that, to the legacy it will leave. Yes, of course I think there will be opportunities for us next year but we need to keep it in perspective.” With talented and passionate chefs like Martin Wishart at the helm, the Scottish hospitality sector is in very safe hands indeed. n

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in association with

FOOD FOR THOUGHT The issue: How can we maximise growth opportunities in the Scottish food and drink sector and what additional support is needed to keep national and international trading momentum high? It’s a key business driver for Scotland, up there with energy, life sciences and financial services, so the food and drink sector is of vital importance to the Scottish economy. With a 28% increase in sales of Scottish brands in the UK and a 50% rise in food exports taking total food and drink turnover to £12.4bn, how can the industry maximise growth opportunities and what additional support is needed to keep national and international trading momentum high? These were among the key issues discussed at the BQ Live Debate in Glasgow on a sunny June evening. Key industry figures along with established producers, some at the beginning of their business journey and representatives from the event’s sponsor, Santander Corporate & Commercial, gathered within the plush surroundings of the city’s boutique Blythwood Square Hotel, famous in its illustrious former

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life as The Royal Scottish Automobile Club (RSAC). The debate kicked off with a welldeserved round of applause for one of the participants, Brendan Maher of St James Smokehouse in Annan, whose company had claimed three accolades at the prestigious Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards the previous week – Business of the Year, Export Business of the Year and, for Maher himself, Scottish Food & Drink Entrepreneur. Against this positive backdrop and the fact the impressive figures mentioned above mean that industry leadership organisation, Scotland Food & Drink, is already 99% of the way to achieving its target of growing the value of the industry to £12.5bn by 2017, the debate touched on several pertinent issues: exporting, provenance, skills and education, collaboration, health, innovation and sustainability. First off, though, chairman Caroline Theobald

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Taking part Kevin Boyd, divisional managing director, Santander Corporate & Commercial Jim Fairlie, farmer Steve Hand, regional business development director, Santander Corporate & Commercial Simon Hannah, managing director, JW Filshill Adam Hardie, head of food and drink, Johnston Carmichael Martin Henderson, owner, Findlater’s Fine Foods Donnie Maclean, chief executive, Eat Balanced Brendan Maher, managing director, St James Smokehouse Colin Millar, partner, McClure Naismith LLP Uel Morton, chief executive, Quality Meat Scotland Scott Landsburgh, chief executive, Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation David Shaw, commercial director, Genius Foods Graham Silcock, regional director, Scotland, Santander Corporate & Commercial Petra Wetzel, owner, West Brewery James Withers, chief executive, Scotland Food & Drink For BQ Scotland: Karen Peattie In the chair: Caroline Theobald BQ Live venue: Blythswood Square Hotel, Blythswood Square, Glasgow BQ is highly regarded as a leading independent commentator on business issues, many of which have a bearing on the current and future success of the region’s business economy. BQ Live is a series of informative debates designed to further contribute to the success and prosperity of our regional economy through the debate, discussion and feedback of a range of key business topics and issues.

invited everyone round the table to introduce themselves, setting the scene for the debate that was to follow. For some guests, however, it was straight down to business with one immediately sharing some of the challenges facing his sector, salmon farming. Scott Landsburgh, chief executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation, said: “We are a very consolidated industry now;

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we really only have eight companies, by and large Norwegian-owned. In the last three years we have reinvested just under £170m in the industry which in the rural Highlands and Islands is quite significant money. I know of at least three remote communities that would not survive without the salmon farm in the bay. So it is not without its challenges. “Planning is a problem. We could easily increase production. In fact, every salmon we produce we could sell today never mind tomorrow. We could double production. Ten years ago we produced 152,000 tonnes of salmon and this year we will produce 152,000 tonnes of salmon. “We are flatlining – we’re not going anywhere. In world terms we’re in reverse and that’s down to the fact that we can’t get development planning. We’ve got the money for it but it is very difficult to unlock the planning system in certain parts of Scotland. We are addressing that, obviously, but it is a frustration and a very slow process.” Jim Fairlie, the Perthshire sheep and beef farmer who was a founder of Perth Farmers’ Market – the first in Scotland – said: “I take massive pride in producing top-quality beef and lamb, and there is a massive role to play in getting people to recognise what they have on their doorstep and showing them how to cook it and how to use it. “Kids have to learn where their food comes from and we have to show them that there is a career at the end of it. “I have to take my hat off to James Withers and QMS (Quality Meat Scotland), who have done a brilliant job, but also the present Scottish Government.

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“As a farmer, we have never been so well represented as we are now. “2014 is going to be huge. If we get that right, our industry’s exports are going to be massively increased. We must give people such a good experience that they want to come back here again.” Scott Landsburgh: “I agree with Jim that the Scottish Government has been very good and Richard Lochhead is an excellent standardbearer for the food industry in general, as is James Withers, but we do have to look at where our development is coming from in the primary industries. “We are on the cusp of all the fish that’s eaten in the world, the majority of it will be farmed – that’s from this year. Another interesting thing to note is that the European Union imports 65% of all the fish it consumes which, considering the coastline it has, is ridiculous.” Caroline Theobald asked what the industry in Scotland can be doing better, participants retorting with an array of answers – some predictable but others less so. What was particularly interesting, however, was the way in which a discussion about collaboration

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quickly morphed into one about mentoring. In fact, training and mentoring were the recurring themes of the evening. James Withers: “Collaboration is the key. We are a nation of SMEs – 80% of our companies employ less than 10 people – so we need to better support them, particularly around international business.” David Shaw: “We don’t have a business that has a £2m-per-annum marketing budget so we have no choice but to be collaborative in some shape or form. But if you become too collaborative in your way to market you lose your focus and become one of 300 similar products in your sector. So we need to be smarter. We are all good at innovation but not commercialisation.” Brendan Maher: “There’s a feeling that when you’re a one-trick pony, no-one is going to do the job as well as you can. We have always struggled when we’re using brokers in that respect. There’s one we deal with in the US but do they really care if they are selling Scotch Beef or St James salmon? Simon Hannah: “I can relate to what Brendan is saying because as a wholesaler, what my company sells is not unique but it >>

We could easily increase production. In fact, every salmon we produce we could sell today never mind tomorrow. We could double production.

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is our desire to take a product and get that product to the consumer as efficiently as possible. Distribution is not your only route to selling more products – it is getting the right distribution and doing it in the most sustainable way possible.” Martin Henderson spoke about the strength of brands in Scotland. “Not only do we have strong branding we have quality. We have to play to those strengths. We’ve had a lot of help and support, from Santander, Scottish Enterprise and SDI. But I think the Scottish Government could do more to help SMEs. When you’re very, very small it’s hard to get traction. You have a great product but you need more help to get that product and great ideas off the ground.” Adam Hardie: “We have run a lot of sessions recently, particularly in the east of Scotland, looking at opportunities for joint buying groups. There is a collaboration with breweries just now that is quite exciting and Scotland is very much punching above its weight. What we need to do is get people to share common experiences. We have started the journey and

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are continuing – people are saying they are interested in what others have to say.” Petra Wetzel: “In 2009, I invited every brewer in Scotland to do this. They all came because they were curious but no-one wanted to collaborate because they were all so insular.” Colin Millar: “There are positives and negatives. People should be aware that you can damage your brand and reputation by going into the wrong type of collaboration. They don’t always work the way you think so you need to know how you are going to get out of them.” Jim Fairlie: “It depends who you are selling to. By collaborating, we are going to send out a picture that we are vibrant and dynamic.” Uel Morton described Scotland Food & Drink as “a great umbrella for collaboration”, pointing out that without it the industry would not be in the position it is today, with the Scottish Government so supportive. “We wouldn’t be here without Scotland Food & Drink. It is the lynchpin for collaboration within our industry.” Donnie Maclean, whose young business Eat

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Balanced markets healthy pizzas, was next to get his views across. He pointed out that he was interested in mentoring, a process that was, to a certain extent, collaboration but a different type of collaboration. He said: “There’s a lack of intellectual property (IP) in the food and drink sector so people are going to be cagey about putting their heads together. But I’m talking about mentoring and speaking to people who have done a lot in their business life and are in a position to want to help you. The major retailers are squashing brands and you are fighting for a smaller and smaller space in certain categories.” Petra Wetzel: “I would go further and say that education and inspiration are important. I found it really difficult to find people in Scotland to inspire me to be better in my business so I went to London to find someone.” Wetzel, whose passion for Scotland was piqued when she read the book ‘Scotland the Brand’ at school in Germany when she was 14, added: “That has stuck with me because one of the things I want to do is export to markets like the US. Scotland really is such a powerful brand and we all need to use it.” Simon Hannah: “The people who want mentors go looking for them. I have a mentor myself and he has helped me hugely in structuring the future direction of my business. I’m also a member of the Council of the Scottish Wholesale Association and we have a mentoring scheme for up-and-coming people within the industry. I think there is a role for trade associations of all shapes and sizes to be able to facilitate this. “My mentor is not someone involved in my industry – I felt I needed someone from outside my sector – but he is someone I trust. “That is essential.” James Withers: “We have a bank of people who are mentors but perhaps we fall into the trap that Simon has mentioned? They are all from within the industry.” Kevin Boyd: “There are definitely mentors out there with a lot of experience.” Steve Hand: “I think the hardest trick is to encourage your staff to buy into that process – it’s a big marketing job for companies.” Donnie Maclean revealed that he had recently gone back to his old primary and secondary schools to talk to pupils about his business and

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inspire them, suggesting everyone in business should be proactive in educating young people who, after all, are the business people and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. “If you get them in at grass-roots level and inspire them early, it helps get them off on the right track.” Uel Morton: “We don’t do enough to talk the food and drink industry up as a career.” Brendan Maher: “The food industry is definitely sexy right now. The perception of a career in food and drink has changed, I think. People are exposed to all the TV chefs and food shows so subconsciously they’re thinking about it.” Petra Wetzel: “We get lawyers and bankers looking for a career change wanting to come and work for us so I definitely agree with what Brendan says.” David Shaw suggested that the challenge was to stop skilled, young people from leaving Scotland in the first place: “We are not holding on to them. I still see hugely talented people in this country – in all my time working down south I never saw my head office workforce with less than 20% of Scots. The reality is that a lot of people can’t move onto the next level in their careers without moving south. They don’t necessarily want to go.” Brendan Maher: “So are people only coming back to Scotland because of their families or because they want a different lifestyle?” Adam Hardie: “We need to grow global business here in Scotland.” Donnie Maclean intimated that he is currently looking for investors to help grow his business. “None seem to have an appetite for the food industry,” he suggested. “I think I’m going to have to go south of the Border to get investment because I can’t get any interest here. Yes, people are interested in investing but in high-tech, high-risk and high-return businesses.” Martin Henderson: “I got grants for capital investment and other support that I’ve already mentioned but I don’t think everyone necessarily knows that help is out there – the onus is on you to find out. That takes time and new businesses don’t have time.” On that note, Caroline Theobald moved the debate on to the export issue and with a 63% rise in food exports since 2007, Scottish companies clearly have an appetite for

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overseas markets where there is scope for considerable growth. James Withers: “This is an area where the industry needs to be really focused. The needs of seafood differ from those of red meat, dairy, bakery and so on. We need to look beyond Europe which accounts for over 70%. Food and drink is now Scotland’s fastest-rowing export sector so it’s crucial that we tap into the emerging markets like China, Singapore and so on. We need to develop these routes to market which means upping our game. In the UK we have a good distribution network but internationally there are so many other considerations – different languages and packaging, for example.” Scott Landsburgh: “We can’t reject our home market, in our case 2.5% of our industry. But our opportunities are outwith these shores.” He also spoke about provenance and brand authenticity, reminding the debate that salmon is Scotland’s largest food export and worldwide retail value of Scottish farmed salmon is now

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over £1bn. Brendan Maher, in his introduction earlier in the evening, said that when he started his business he saw a lot of “Mickey Mouse” Scottish salmon which was actually from Chile and smoked in Miami or New York with a bit of tartan on the bag. He said: “Americans thought this was Scottish but no part of it was the real deal. So I started St James Smokehouse to give America, where there are a lot of Irish, Scottish, British ex-pats, genuine product from Scotland. But I wanted to be restrained in the way I used tartan. I don’t want the Loch Ness Monster on my bags. We have to be strong on provenance, brand and authenticity.” Uel Morton chimed with Maher’s views on provenance and branding, pointing to the QMS brands of Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork. Quality, he said, sets the standards for production not just within his own sector but across the Scottish food and drink industry. But he questioned: “How can we increase >>

Independence At the top of the evening, chairman Caroline Theobald referred to the “elephant in the room”, and asked the BQ Live Debate guests for their views. West Brewery’s Petra Wetzel was quick to put her hand up: “Whoever explains to me how it is going to work is going to get my vote.” Her sentiment was echoed by JW Filshill’s Simon Hannah, who pointed to the “confusing messages” coming out of both the Yes and No camps with those wanting independence “screaming about it from the rooftops” and being very vocal. “But those who are not for independence don’t seem to be saying anything,” he suggested. “People who don’t spend a huge amount of time looking at politics are looking for external influences in helping them make a decision. The big challenge is to get proper debate through trusted sources.” According to Martin Henderson of Findlater’s, the media is extremely biased in the way it presents information on the independence issue with much of it pro-Union. That is why a lot of people find it difficult to say that they know anything about it – there is so much inflammatory language being used in the media. People then find it hard to discuss any meaningful facts.” James Withers of Scotland Food & Drink said that “if you are waiting for the facts to emerge before the referendum you will be waiting forever”. Meanwhile, Donnie Maclean of Eat Balanced presented a thought-provoking analogy, stating: “If you were looking at the independence debate as a business you would be looking at the management team and the finance team,” he suggested. “There are some good people there but not enough good people.” Uel Morton of Quality Meat Scotland raised an issue with regard to his industry in that Scotland is different from an agriculture point of view and has 85% less favoured areas [areas of the country designated under European Union rules as needing extra financial support to sustain farming communities]. In England, it is the direct opposite. “We need to have the freedom to negotiate what is right for Scotland in an EU context,” he said.

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production when farmers are farming fewer animals? We have demand for the brands but how do we turn round the economics of producing them? “We recognise the inherent value that is in a brand like red meat but we need to export more because we will never fully recognise the value of our brands if we are solely supplying the UK.” Health, of course, is another key issue facing the industry and forms a major strand of Scotland’s national food and drink policy. Donnie Maclean pointed out that, in his view, consumers were much more in tune with the health debate south of the Border. He said: “I was in London and saw that people were switched on more to the health message. We’re in business to make money. I want to see more Scots take it on board but in business you can’t afford to hang about – you have to go where the business is.” Jim Fairlie then used his business an example of consumer misconceptions about what constitutes healthy food. “We take our

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produce to T in the Park where we sell beef burgers, lamb burgers and so on,” he said. “When we first started it was people of my own generation who would buy them – now we get the teenagers actually coming to seek us out because they’ve heard about our ‘posh’ burgers. I explain that they are not like massproduced burgers – they are wholesome with nothing nasty in them.” James Withers: “The horsemeat scandal has definitely made people more aware of provenance and authenticity. People are thinking that perhaps they should be spending more on food to get the quality. There’s a bit of a culture change just now.” Jim Fairlie: “It’s interesting that the biggest resistance we’ve had was at a festival called Rewind at Scone Palace where it was people of my own age group who weren’t prepared to pay a bit extra for a good quality burger. They were happy to pay 50p less for something of dubious quality. “We’ve been working with kids in Perth and Kinross for a long time now and they are far

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more switched on that we give them credit for. In fact, there’s lots of really good stuff happening in schools and it’s a joy to see. At Perth High School, for example, we got children to turn over ground to grow vegetables. They not only had to grow produce, they had to sell it to the Home Economics department then they created a five-star gourmet meal in the Long Room of Scone Palace. Pupils also served the dinner. “Chefs including Andrew Fairlie of Gleneagles were involved – the whole exercise was to encourage an emphasis on local produce, highlighting the links between the farm and the plate, but also showing that you can have a great career in the hospitality industry. “Under the Curriculum for Excellence you have the opportunity to bring so much more into education – it also creates entrepreneurship.” Graham Silcock, regional director, Scotland, Santander Corporate & Commercial, was hugely impressed by Fairlie’s tenacity in the education arena. “I think it’s admirable,” he said. “We’re

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involved with the Santander Social Enterprise Development Awards which aim to support social enterprises and community interest companies looking to grow their business and improve their local community. “The awards are targeted at established social enterprises with two or more years of trading that have ambitions to develop their business but need a financial boost to help them realise their ideas. “All of these things are important – we need more of them.” Uel Morton: “Everything that helps generate interest in food and where it comes from is a good thing. I agree that the celebrity chef culture is a positive thing for the food and drink industry. At QMS, we also do a lot of work with schools and launched our Meat Voucher Scheme which enables secondary schools to get vouchers worth up to £100 to exchange for Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb or Specially Selected Pork at local retailers. “It’s part of our work to educate young people on the role red meat can play in a healthy diet and it has been extremely successful.” Colin Millar: “It also brings it back to provenance and quality, doesn’t it? I find this all very interesting in forming my views on what I can bring to my clients in the food and drink sector. This debate is helping me work out what is relevant to them.” Petra Wetzel agreed: “For me, it is not about quantity over quality. I am not prepared to cut corners.” Uel Morton: “I’m very pleased because the debate has shown how important education is for our industry. Every year we are putting more cash into these activities. It’s very encouraging to hear how interested everyone around the table is in this area.” Kevin Boyd: “Finding out more about Scotland Food & Drink gives us a good entry point to do more in the industry. Can we do more to help from an education perspective? We’re more than happy to talk to you about it.” Simon Hannah: “I’ve been at other debates where people have banged on about the banks and how awful they are but surely it’s time to stop moaning and be more proactive ourselves? In business, there are some things you can influence and others you can’t. I’ve said before that you need a point of difference and it

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is true that in my business, there are many independent retailers who are struggling to get finance. “They have great ideas and want to make their businesses better and more profitable but they can’t access funds. “The only way they will survive is by investing so, as a company, we are trying to bridge that gap by lending them the money to install new Epos systems which help them run their businesses more efficiently and cost-effectively. What do we get in return? “Well, we get a bigger share of their business but, crucially, information we can use to get better deals with suppliers that they can in turn pass on to their customers – the consumer.” Steve Hand: “The banks haven’t had the best

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of press but I think we’re in a good position. We have a 4-5% market share and our aim is to double that over the next few years so we want to engage with ambitious companies. Some of our early success can be seen in this sector. What better place for us to operate in and where there is so much quality, that is a banker’s dream. “I am privileged to be part of this debate rather than be sitting on the outside watching it going on.” n The BQ Live Debate was held at the Blythswood Square Hotel in Glasgow and was chaired by Caroline Theobald, managing director, Bridge Club Ltd.

Fuelling the Ambition of Scotland’s Food and Drink Sector At Santander Corporate and Commercial, we were delighted to be associated with this enthralling debate, which brought together some of Scotland’s successful entrepreneurs and industry opinion formers who all share the same aim – to capitalise on the opportunities and continue to make the most of our thriving food and drink industry. Overall, aided and supported by the Scottish Government, the sector is in good shape and is on track to surpass the targeted contribution to the Scottish economy set by Scotland Food & Drink, the still young (established in 2007) but already influential body that drives Scotland’s Food and Drink companies to increase their profitability. However there’s no room for complacency and it was heartening to see all contributors talk so passionately about encouraging the industry to challenge itself to do more. This collective optimism really shone through. Despite the challenges we have seen in the economy during recent years, the desire to drive for quality and maintain brand authenticity and provenance showed just why this industry has continued to thrive both at home and elsewhere around the world. In order to grow further, there are still things that must be addressed and several of these came out during the evening. For example, despite salmon being Scotland’s largest food export, we still only produce the same quantity that we did 10 years ago – what can be done to change this? And looking further to the future and despite the prominence that food and drink enjoys in the media, why do so many young people who work in the sector either straight from school or to support studies, seem so quick to dismiss remaining in the industry when considering longer term career choices? Clearly there’s a need to improve overall attitudes and get more young people committed to the sector - providing them with genuine career opportunities and in so doing improving the retention of talent for the benefit of the Scottish economy. There remain many opportunities for Scotland’s Food and Drink entrepreneurs to exploit and, judging by the determination of those present at this debate, the sector is well placed to fulfil its potential for many years to come. At Santander Corporate and Commercial, we have made a commitment to play our part in supporting the sector through helping these ambitious business leaders achieve their goals. Graham Silcock, Regional Director, Santander Corporate and Commercial, Scotland

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A toast to the revolution

The remarkable rise of Scotland’s food and drink industry in recent years shows no signs of slowing – much to the delight of Richard Lochhead MSP, who spoke to Karen Peattie Chatting to food producers and industry grandees in Edinburgh after the recent Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards, Richard Lochhead MSP admits to being in awe of the current levels of innovation within the industry north of the Border. “There’s a constant stream of new businesses starting up and new product development in every category,” he says. “It’s an incredibly exciting time for the industry.” In fact, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment was “bowled over” by producers’ passion and commitment to their businesses. But, crucially, as he mingled with company owners and producers at the over-subscribed industry “Oscars” in The Assembly Rooms, he was exposed to views and suggestions that will help him better understand the opportunities – and challenges – facing the food and drink industry. Fast-forward one week and Lochhead is still “buzzing with excitement” after Scotland’s most prestigious and high-profile food and drink awards event. Exchanging pleasantries in

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his office at the Scottish Parliament, he needs little encouragement to wax lyrically about the industry: “I’ve said it before and I will say it again – there is a food and drink revolution under way in Scotland. When I was appointed to this position in 2007 I saw a massive opportunity for an industry that wasn’t doing as much as it could be and I think we’ve made great inroads since then.” For starters, Lochhead points to the significant increase in funding for the industry, plus the creation of industry body Scotland Food & Drink, organiser of the Excellence Awards in partnership with The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS). “Launching Scotland Food & Drink was one of my first tasks,” he recalls. “I remember eating fresh Scottish langoustines at the launch event down by the Clyde in Glasgow and thought the timing was absolutely perfect; a new era for the industry. “I’m passionate about food anyway but I was new to the job and keen to hit the ground running,” he goes on. “I had a vision to

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galvanize the industry and when you have an opportunity like we do in Scotland with our amazing food and drink, I couldn’t understand why more wasn’t being done to promote it. What I’m seeing now is an excitement in the industry – an industry that’s become quite sexy. “We have a sector which Scotland is proud of and which the rest of the world recognises and promotes. That creates an environment of positivity, confidence and potential, and also an industry offering great career opportunities for people to take up.” Referring again to the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards, Lochhead points to the sheer variety of products winning industry accolades – artisan dairy products from Katy Rodgers in Stirlingshire; healthy rolls from Pulsetta in Aberdeenshire; craft beer from The Orkney Brewery; Rannoch Smokery of Perthshire’s dry-cured smoked wild Scottish venison; and the 2013 Product of the Year – velvet truffles and spiced pralines from chocolatier Iain Burnett, also based in Perthshire, to name just a few. >>

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Along with other small food and drink companies the length and breadth of Scotland, they are all working hard to find a route to market. And according to Lochhead, companies don’t need to be big to find success in niche markets. “I’m seeing inspiring examples of small firms doing amazing things everywhere I go,” he says. “Take craft breweries, for example. Many are expanding and enjoying excellent year-onyear growth and there’s an array of other niche products that are aiming for quality and bringing growth to the marketplace. “It’s encouraging to see what people are capable of, particularly in the run-up to 2014 when the eyes of the world will be upon us.” Lochhead, of course, is referring to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and Homecoming 2014 when Scotland will be very much in

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the spotlight. “The massive global attention on Scotland next year will be the best possible advertisement for our food and drink industry,” he suggests, highlighting the Scottish Food Champions initiative launched last year to recognise businesses which offer quality, fresh, seasonal produce as well as promoting where their food comes from. A wide range of businesses, from B&Bs and hotels to food outlets and visitor attractions, are involved in the scheme, a joint venture between the Scottish Government and VisitScotland. It aims to have at least 1000 businesses signed up by 2015. “While we are taking practical steps on the ground to offer visitors a fantastic food and drink experience, we’re also seeing businesses putting their creative hats on to take advantage of being in the spotlight,” he continues. “We want to send visitors back home as

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ambassadors for Scottish food and drink. This is a massive PR and promotional opportunity that might not happen again.” Accepting that there are some concerns about public-sector procurement, Lochhead does his best to alleviate any fears that smaller food and drink companies will be edged out by bigger operators when it comes to winning lucrative contracts to provide catering services or supply food and drink to Games venues, including the Athletes’ Village. Indeed, Scotland Food & Drink, he points out, has appointed a project manager to help businesses make the most of the opportunities presented by next year’s wide programme of events. Lochhead draws a parallel with Scotland in the 18th and 19th centuries when our legacy to the world was based largely on science, innovation and invention. “There’s now a resurgence in the 21st century and I see a clear

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opportunity to apply that to food and drink,” he says. “We have a great science base and that can support our healthy eating agenda and dietary goals.” Health, of course, is a key strand in “Recipe for Success – Scotland’s National Food and Drink Policy”, the aim of which is to promote Scotland’s sustainable economic growth by ensuring that the Scottish Government’s focus in relation to food and drink and, in particular, its work with the industry, addresses quality, health and wellbeing, and environmental sustainability, recognising the need for access and affordability at the same time. According to Lochhead, education also has a big role to play. In recent weeks, a £1m fund has been launched to provide more food education for pupils. Supporting the aims of the Curriculum for Excellence, the Food for Thought Education Fund is designed to help pupils learn about all aspects of food, with teachers developing projects inspired by the events happening in 2014 to create a legacy for young people for the future. Food education is a key strand of the national food and drink policy and funding of up to £5000 will be available to teachers to support at least 200 projects during 2013-15, each of which will be topped up with a direct financial or in-kind contribution from the private sector. Scottish Business in the Community will work with successful projects to help them find private-sector support. It’s a bold ambition but one Lochhead is passionate about. “Making sure that Scottish pupils know where their food comes from, how it affects their health and the environment as well as our nation’s economy is vital,” he says. “It’s particularly relevant now as we’re seeing people becoming increasingly interested in the provenance of their food. I want every child in Scotland to receive food education.” Meanwhile, Lochhead is working on “a stream of activity” to take the national food and drink policy to the next level. “We are a food nation,” he says. “It’s about all of the things I’ve discussed – health, innovation, education – but we need to do more to help people learn about provenance when they’re cooking for their families at home and also in the hospitality sector.”

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While Lochhead gives credit to the hospitality sector for the “massive inroads” it has made in promoting Scottish food and drink, he remains “immensely frustrated and disappointed” that more isn’t being done to showcase Scotland’s larder. “I want it to be second nature to operators,” he says. “That would be a huge breakthrough for us. Yes, we’ve started but there’s so much more scope for using our hospitality outlets to promote food and drink.” Collaboration and engagement are key, he suggests, to breaking down barriers. “I bring people round the table and they haven’t met

We need to do more to help people learn about provenance when they’re cooking for their families at home and also in the hospitality sector each other before,” he explains. “One of the great benefits of Scotland Food & Drink has been the marked increase in collaboration in a sector that is quite fragmented because there are lots of different trade associations and promotional bodies pursuing their own agenda for very legitimate reasons. “But we need to work together and speak with one voice as an industry – especially on the international stage. Every business I speak to emphasises the strength of the Scottish brand. Our brand is a very precious thing that we have to protect but it can deliver new business so we must nurture it.” In some export markets, Lochhead points out, demand is outstripping supply. “The good news, though, is that it’s not just the Baxters and Walkers and established exporters that are flying the flag,” he says. “There are lots of niche markets well suited to many Scottish

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products and it’s not just whisky, salmon, and Scotch Beef that are in demand – we have a whole hamper full of innovative, exciting products that can find a foothold in overseas markets with the right help and advice. “Whisky has set the standard – 50 bottles are exported every second – so there is a huge opportunity and we can learn from the whisky industry,” he goes on. “There are frustrations in that there are overseas distributors telling us there’s demand for our products in niche, highend markets then we hear from US retailers who are struggling to source certain Scottish products. So we need to make the road to these export markets easier to travel.” Lochhead suggests mentoring as part of the solution. “I meet many small producers making top-quality products where I can see massive potential for growth both at home and overseas,” Lochhead continues. “Baxters and Walkers were both small once and something I have been thinking about recently is how we can encourage more mentoring whereby those who have conquered export markets are able to pass on their experience and knowledge to ambitious, smaller producers.” He cites industry stalwart Jim Walker of Walkers Shortbread as someone who is “always more than happy” to talk to people and share information. “People like Jim are absolute stars,” states Lochhead. “These captains of industry are ideally placed to point out the pitfalls and share best practice with those starting out.” All the same, some are making a sterling job of seeking out new markets on their own. “I spoke about craft brewers earlier and know of some in that niche area of production who have captured certain Continental markets, for example – we need to see more of this.” The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment shuffles his papers in a way that only politicians do, signalling his next meeting is imminent. His diary is understandably bulging with ministerial, constituency and industry commitments, so some questions must be left for another day. But if he answers them with the same frankness and honesty that he has displayed today, that’s got to be encouraging for the food and drink producers he spent time with in The Assembly Rooms – and the wider industry. n

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ENTREPRENEUR

spreading into new markets

What started as a restaurant and delicatessen in a West Lothian market town is now set for global success thanks to its mastery of the pâté market, as Karen Peattie discovers Pâté is by no means a new product – we’ve been enjoying it for centuries. But this stalwart of seventies dinner parties, pub grub and Channel 4’s ‘Come Dine With Me’ has enduring appeal, and is undergoing a quiet revolution on a business park in Linlithgow. It’s all down to Findlater’s Fine Foods, a food producer that started life as a restaurant and delicatessen in the West Lothian market town, also famous as the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. Owner Martin Henderson, 43, bounds into the meeting room, apologising for appearing harassed. However, he does have a very good reason: he’s in the process of building a new logistics facility to provide additional storage space and create a more effective distribution hub. “Life’s pretty hectic at the moment,” he says. “We’ve been weak in this area and we’re using a third party. They’ve been doing a great job for us but we want to have more control. The reality is that it’s also more expensive to do things that way and we’ve reached a stage in our development whereby we don’t want to rely on other people’s systems.” The new warehouse has been a year in the planning and has been partly funded – 40% – with a grant from the Scottish Government. “The grant has covered our capital costs,” explains Henderson. “That gave us leverage to negotiate with the bank and we’re delighted with the support we’ve received. We have a good asset base – we own our existing premises – and we know we have a fantastic product.” Others clearly agree. Santander has provided a £360,000 finance facility to support the

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company’s growth. “They’ve been hugely supportive,” says Henderson. “I think the key thing is that they understand us and what we’re trying to do with the business. Our turnover has grown by 40% for each of the past three years so we were speaking to them from a very strong position. We’ve enjoyed working with Santander.” Findlater’s, meanwhile, has won numerous Great Taste Awards – largely considered to be

We realised that running a restaurant was all consuming so we took stock and asked oursleves where we would be in 10 years the ‘Oscars’ of fine food – while the brand is gaining listings in supermarkets and, more recently, the lucrative foodservice sector. “It’s an incredibly exciting time for our business just now,” says Henderson, who started making his trademark Findlater’s chicken liver pâté with brandy and port in his restaurant and deli back in 2004. The business flourished and grew to the extent that Henderson and his wife, Sara, had to build a bigger kitchen to cope with demand. “People would order our pâté in the restaurant

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then buy it to take home,” he explains. “Word spread and we had farm shops and other outlets wanting to stock it. “We also realised that running a restaurant was an all-consuming existence,” Henderson continues. “With a young family, that’s really hard so we took stock and asked ourselves where we would be in 10 years’ time. “We had capacity for 38 covers and no options for growth unless we opened another restaurant which would have meant us spreading ourselves even thinner, so when I sat down to count the numbers I could see that concentrating on the pâté was much more scaleable.” Henderson sold the restaurant and deli business in 2007. Today, the luxury product range extends to much more than Findlater’s flagship produce. Sumptuous flavour combinations such as venison with cranberry and cherry poached in cherry brandy, smoked mackerel with fresh coriander leaf and lemon, and avocado and cashew nut with mango and chilli have bolstered Findlater’s 20-plus portfolio, along with a range of dips using ingredients including wilted spinach and ricotta; roasted red pepper; and coconut satay. It also includes coleslaw made with free-range egg mayonnaise. In addition, the pâtés and the coleslaw are naturally free of gluten and suitable for Coeliacs. All products are handmade by chefs in small batches to the company’s own recipes with a “tasting committee” checking and tasting each batch to ensure quality and consistency. “We look at the colour, texture and flavour,” explains Henderson. “You do get variants >>

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ENTREPRENEUR with a handmade product so it’s usually me, the general manager, production manager, customer service manager and some other members of the team officiating. And yes, we do sometimes have to reject a batch.” Made entirely from natural ingredients which are predominantly sourced from local producers, Findlater’s products can be found UK-wide in stockists including Waitrose, independent delis, farm shops and online retailer, Ocado. The firm is also developing its foodservice arm, providing the same premium pâtés and dips in different pack sizes and formats. Findlater’s also supplies frozen products for some of its catering customers. “At the moment our foodservice arm is doing four product lines and some speciality lines at certain times of the year such as Christmas,” explains Henderson. “For foodservice, we have the same ethos in production values with our chefs cooking the pâtés in pots on the stove. Being small is an advantage because we can be flexible and our product range is such that it gives us the depth to deal with our customers 52 weeks a year. “While I would like to deal more with the big supermarkets in the future, I see much of our growth coming from this division of the business. I’d rather grow by seeking new markets in foodservice and also export.” Findlater’s uses Town & Country Fine Foods in Slough and the local distributor, Campbells Prime Meats as its route to market in foodservice. It also uses a distributor in Northern Ireland. “We’re doing well,” says Henderson. “We have products going into the Hilton group and hotels like the Sheraton. Our distributors are very proactive and experts in their fields.” From the export perspective, Findlater’s is making inroads in Oman and the United Arab Emirates, although Henderson is frustrated by the length of time it takes to get things moving in these markets. “You have to be patient,” he admits. “It’s annoying because you want to get stuck in and you could grow old waiting for it to happen. It will happen but it’s just taking time. There’s considerable scope for us in overseas markets.” Henderson’s route to fine food producer is certainly colourful. He left Strathclyde University half-way through a degree in

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economics and marketing because he wasn’t enjoying it, then found a job at the former Scottish Amicable. “I got a good grounding at university and became immersed in commerce and business,” he points out. “I was also in a band for while.

We have products going into the Hilton group and hotels like the Sheraton. Our distributors are very proactive “But both Sara and me always loved food and that’s what led us to open the restaurant and deli and what, I think, were the hardest three years of our lives. It seems such a long time ago now but I always knew we were onto a winner with our pâté – people wouldn’t have travelled miles to buy it otherwise – so we followed our instincts.” New product development is ongoing with Henderson and his chefs constantly experimenting with new flavour combinations. “I’ll be driving somewhere in the car and think of something that might work, or I’ll be

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in a restaurant and wonder if a certain dish’s flavours could be transferred to a pâté. Some work and some don’t – it’s pretty much trial and error – and we know from experience that certain things work in pâté, cream cheese, for example. If you can cook it and it doesn’t split you’re in with a shout.” Henderson likes to try unlikely combinations, flavours that really shouldn’t go together. “Take our duck liver pâté,” he says. “We blend it with Cointreau and poached apricots which is pretty unusual but it gives customers a really unexpected flavour kick and that encourages them to try others in the range. I think if you are innovative and are providing a fresh alternative to what’s out there in the marketplace you have a chance. “We also have confidence in our brand and know that we’re adding value to our company all the time – the people you deal with pick up on that vibe. This year we could very well double in size although our projections are to do that by the end of March 2014. It’s all really positive for Findlater’s.” As the business grows, Henderson continues to spend time seeking out potential new customers at trade shows such as Speciality & Fine Food Fair which takes places at London’s Olympia every autumn. These shows, he suggests, are a “hotbed of activity” and the place to be make good contacts and network. Findlater’s also supplied pâté for the Athletes’ Village at the Olympics last summer. He also praises the support for the wider food and drink industry from the Scottish Government, and also Scottish Enterprise (SE). “We’re SE account-managed and they’ve been absolutely first-class,” says Henderson. “Scottish Development International (SDI) are also slick and excel at putting you in touch with the right people through their intelligence and connections in key markets – they have some fantastic individuals batting for their team.” For Martin Henderson, his eye is always on what is coming next – exciting, new products and new routes to market. “The food and drink industry in Scotland is amazing,” he says. “The levels of innovation we’re seeing across the board is really quite remarkable and I’m extremely proud to be part of an industry that is so forward-thinking and dynamic.” n

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the honeypot effect

Tourist destinations with food and drink at their heart are on the rise in Scotland, as Karen Peattie discovers on a farm near Edinburgh With VisitScotland estimating that visitors spend £700m per annum on food and drink in around 20,000 tourism outlets across Scotland, it’s no surprise that enterprising individuals like John Sinclair are responding to the growing consumer appetite for tourist “destinations” that have food and drink at their heart. While a weekend ritual for a growing band of people from all walks of life is a visit to their local farmers’ market, outlets such as Craigie’s Farm and Café at South Queensferry, near Edinburgh are also fast becoming the place to go for an afternoon out with the family, somewhere to grab a spot of lunch or to buy local produce. Sinclair established the business in its present form with his wife, Kirsteen, at West Craigie, the family farm, in 2007. “We’d had a farm shop since 1988 but could see there was an upsurge in consumer interest in local produce and wanted to respond early, so we added a café and new building,” he explains. “At the same time, we were looking at other farm-based businesses that had diversified into tourism and reckoned our location was wellsuited to attracting people and families looking for a day out.” While Sinclair admits that business has been “a little flat” in the last year, he says: “Since 2007, we’ve experienced rapid annual growth so this year we’ve been focusing on getting the right margins on products and

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We could see there was an upsurge in consumer interest in local produce and wanted to respond early

our management structure. So while sales are down our margins are much better and that puts us in a strong position going forward. To put it in perspective we have around 10,000 transactions per month with 2.4 people accounting for each transaction.” The recent spell of sunny weather has certainly drawn more people to Craigie’s although there are few days when the tables in the café aren’t filled at lunchtime, Sinclair points out. Today is one of those good days. At 11am, visitors are already having to use the overspill car park and there’s a queue at the butchery counter, a concession run by the awardwinning Fife-based Puddledub, itself a regular on the farmers’ market circuit. Tomatoes from the Clyde Valley make for a colourful display inside, people are buying ice-cream and, at the entrance, fresh produce looks like it should – dirty carrots and misshapen cucumbers that probably wouldn’t see the light of day in a supermarket. It’s a little early for the pick-your-own fruit season and the bad weather earlier in the year has put it back by three to four weeks. “Things tend to balance out,” says Sinclair. “Enquiries for PYO are coming in thick and fast, and like other independent butchers we’ve had a boost in the number of customers to the shop in the wake of the horsemeat scandal so that’s been a positive thing for us. We’re 15% above >> where we would expect to be.

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OVERVIEW

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Children need to learn that cute little piglets and lambs have a purpose and it’s important to teach them early

“I think people take comfort from a shop like this,” Sinclair suggests. “You can see and feel the produce; you can talk to the butchers and other staff. You can taste the quality and that is very important to people but so is provenance – for us, it’s all about provenance. “It’s a nice place to come because the whole family can get involved. People want to work here, too. We’ve advertised recently for seasonal staff and received 30 applications within 24 hours. We have a core staff of 30 with a good mix of ages and a low turnover – there’s a vibrancy and enthusiasm that customers and visitors pick up on.” While Sinclair does as much as he can to support local producers, it’s not always possible. “Someone can have a great product but we need to know that they can supply us with what we need, and consistency of supply is crucial,” he explains. “We are very good at

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helping producers and offering them advice on how to go about getting barcodes and that type of thing. “Proximity to West Craigie is important although we do stock some products from south of the Border and in some categories there are just so many products now – rapeseed oil is a good example – that we can’t possibly take them all. There’s a lot more to it that people think but we’ll happily give our

time to steer producers in the right direction. We’re also a producer – we supply our own jams, marmalades and chutneys to around 25 independent outlets – so we’re in an ideal position to help.” As Craigie’s and other similar businesses the length and breadth of Scotland gear up for the busy summer season, the competition also starts. “We have Hopetoun Farm Shop not far away from us but we have a different offer and talk to each other so we can help to promote local food in the area rather than compete,” explains Sinclair. “We have our nature detective trail which is a great point of difference, our tractor which the kids just can’t get enough of, woodland walks and PYO. “We also have a new outdoor frisbee fun area this year with information boards about strawberries and so on, plus our animal area which we are in the process of developing. You have to keep pushing the boundaries and trying new ideas to keep regular visitors interested and attract new ones. We’re growing cherries for the first time this year, too.” Piglets have been a huge attraction in recent weeks although the stark reality is that they are part of the food chain. “That’s one of the educational aspects of what we do here,” Sinclair points out. “Children need to learn that the cute piglets and lambs have a purpose and it’s important to teach them early.” And, like the rest of the Scottish food and drink industry, the food tourism operators plan to make the most of the big events taking place in Scotland in 2014. “It’s going to be a massive year for businesses like ours,” says Sinclair. “Everyone’s talking about it but we need to make sure we grab the opportunity and really put Scotland on the world stage by showing visitors to Scotland what we’re capable of.” n

Foodie fortnight Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight is a celebration of the best that Scotland’s larder has to offer. Hundreds of events will be taking place all over the country, from foraging and farmers’ markets, cooking demonstrations and butchery classes to in-store promotions and themed restaurant evenings. It takes place from September 7-22. Find out more at: www.scottishfoodanddrinkfortnight.co.uk

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striking a fine balance How did an economics and marketing graduate end up making nuritionally-balanced pizzas? Healthy eating struck a chord with Donnie Maclean and supermarket success followed, writes Karen Peattie If Donnie Maclean left the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards disappointed a few weeks ago, he certainly didn’t show it. In fact, he was among the first to congratulate the winner of the two categories in which his fast-growing company Eat Balanced, manufacturer of nutritionally-balanced pizzas, was nominated. This young entrepreneur doesn’t have time to dwell on disappointments or setbacks. He’s a man on a mission to grow his Glasgowbased business by extending distribution and expanding his product range. “Winning any award will always help you raise your profile and let more people know about your product,” Maclean points out. “But so does being shortlisted and you also have to consider the networking opportunity presented by the event itself.” It is typical of the 34-year-old to think like that. Maclean’s story is a well-documented one. Straight-talking and articulate, he has a

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knack for securing column inches that would make even Richard Branson envious. This one-man PR whirlwind, however, fully deserves to be given a platform to talk about what he is doing, why he’s doing it and what inspires him. You may also have seen him taking a starring role in The Entrepreneurs, a BBC2 documentary about Scotland’s acclaimed startup incubator, Entrepreneurial Spark. Maclean’s nutritionally-balanced pizzas, developed in collaboration with internationally renowned nutrition academic Professor Mike

Lean, who heads up the Human Nutrition department at the University of Glasgow, aim to make it easier to achieve a balanced diet. “We can preach at people and tell them what they should and shouldn’t be eating and drinking,” says Maclean. “But does anyone really have the right to dictate to people how they live their lives? “The reality is that people will do what they want regardless. That includes eating pizza – it’s universally loved and widely available in supermarkets and restaurants. So I came at >>

We’ve thrown down the gauntlet to the food industry and shown that, with our first range, it is possible to make tasty products that tick all the boxes

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it slightly differently. Why not give people this product they love and want to eat, but in a nutritionally-balanced and healthier format, and make it convenient? It’s not rocket science.” Perhaps not, but it’s certainly hard work with Maclean and his business partner, Katie Sillars, routinely working 12 to 14-hour days. The day before he met with BQ, in fact, he’d put in 19 hours. “I don’t have too many of those,” he says, with a hint of relief in his voice, “although long hours go with the territory with any start-up. It’s your business, your passion – you do what you have to do to make it work.” So how did the graduate in economics and marketing from Strathclyde Business School end up making pizzas? “It came by evolution rather than a light bulb moment,” explains Maclean. “I’m a sports enthusiast and used to

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compete in triathlons and marathons so I was always looking at my own diet and enjoyed using analytical skills to create diet plans. “It was something that interested me and around the same time I was looking at business opportunities.” Maclean initially thought about setting up a business along those lines – creating diet plans for people using the software he’d created. “I was advised against that and a few other ideas were also dismissed as non-starters,” he laughs. “I’ve developed a thick skin over the years so don’t take things too personally. Meeting Mike Lean, however, was the turning point. We hit it off and sat down together to play with ideas. Healthy pizzas struck a chord with him and it took off from there.” With three varieties currently in the Eat Balanced range – Cheese & Tomato, Ham & Pineapple, and Spicy Chicken – consumers

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can choose a pizza in the knowledge that it contains the correct proportion of calories, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, salts, sugar, fibre, vitamins and minerals required for a balanced meal. An Eat Balanced pizza provides about 30% of the guideline daily amounts for each of the main nutrients that people need to maintain a balanced, nutritious diet. Half of the salt has been replaced by seaweed. But is there any compromise on taste? Not according to the Scotland rugby players who were eating them in the build-up to their Six Nations campaign earlier this year. Richard Chessor, lead nutritionist at Scottish Rugby, said at the time: “The Eat Balanced pizza is not only a great idea, it’s a great product too and one which can easily be integrated into the players’ nutrition plans. “Typically a pizza is seen as a guilty pleasure but the Eat Balanced pizza can be used as part

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of a fuelling or recovery strategy without the player being concerned about an excessive sugar or fat intake. They taste great, too, so it’s a win-win.” Launched last year although the company itself was set up in 2010, the Eat Balanced pizzas use only natural ingredients and are made using traditional Italian methods by a long-established Scottish pizza manufacturer. “They’re as authentic as they can possibly be,” says Maclean. “Taste was obviously a key consideration for us because so many healthier-for-you products don’t actually taste very good and we were determined that ours wouldn’t fall into that category. “Our manufacturing partner has been making pizzas in Scotland since the 1960s and has that authentic Italian know-how. “We don’t use preservatives or stabilisers and our dough is slow-fermented. It’s very much a handmade product.” Recently listed by online retailer Ocado, Eat

want to have that high level of control over the business although I accept that will have to change as we get bigger.” Despite the publicity generated by the arrival of Eat Balanced, Maclean is “not that fussed about being in the limelight”. He says: “It’s about the brand and we’ve thrown down the gauntlet to the food industry and shown that, with our first range, it is possible to make tasty products that tick all the boxes for the pressure they are under. “I know there are people who remain sceptical about the concept of a ‘healthy’ pizza and I can understand that but I’m not telling people they can now eat pizza all day – I’m giving them the option whereby when they do fancy a pizza, they can enjoy one that’s nutritionally balanced and much healthier.” Despite his detractors, there are others who have embraced the concept with gusto. In 2012, Eat Balanced’s pizzas won the Great New Idea award at Food & Drink Expo, the

Long hours go with the territory with any start-up. It’s your business, your passion – you do what you have to do to make it work Balanced is also available in Sainsbury’s in Scotland. “It’s a challenge getting listings in the supermarkets, there’s no doubt about it,” says Maclean. “They can be very demanding and you have to work hard at building up relationships. “We’ve had a lot of support from Scotland Food & Drink in this and other aspects of the business such as the networking opportunities I mentioned earlier but you have to be proactive,” he suggests. “You can’t sit back and expect others to do the work for you. If you don’t ask, you don’t get and I’m pretty good at making a pest of myself.” Eat Balanced operates under a lean business structure with Maclean and Sillars dealing with buyers and sourcing ingredients. The pair also control packaging, design and graphics and, of course, marketing and PR. “We’re very hands-on,” says Maclean. “I still

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UK’s largest food and drink trade event. The firm has also won a string of business accolades, including a Local Business Accelerators Award 2013. If selected for the national shortlist, Maclean and Sillars could win the £10,000 cash prize, UK-wide publicity, and the chance to be mentored by Deborah Meaden, star of Dragons’ Den. Maclean’s entrepreneurial spirit is very much in evidence, his nurturing by Entrepreneurial Spark clearly leaving its legacy. “It’s a fantastic organisation,” he enthuses. “It’s such a buzz to be around people with similar goals and aspirations and very much a privilege because demand for places is high and the expectations to perform and are even higher.” An intensive five-month accelerator programme for start-up and early-stage businesses, the programme brings together like-minded entrepreneurs in a collaborative,

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hot-house environment where they can share and test ideas in “hatcheries” located in Glasgow, Edinburgh and the west coast. Eat Balanced has now moved into new premises in Glasgow, having completed the programme. “We really benefited from the energy around the place,” explains Maclean. “You’re under the spotlight because they go through your business plan with a pressure hose and it’s arduous – you have to commit to evening and weekend activities as well so it’s not for the faint-hearted.” Last year, Eat Balanced secured a new finance agreement with Santander Business Banking which will help with the working capital and debt facilities to manage initial major orders via Scotland-based supermarkets but also providing room for the company to develop subsequent products and further support the business’s growth. “In the current environment, it’s refreshing that my bank has really taken an interest in what we are doing, and going that extra mile to help where they can,” says Maclean. “It’s brilliant that they have been able to back up their faith in Eat Balanced by providing me with a facility as a safety net, especially at a crucial time in the development of the business.” His bankers are no doubt impressed with his financial tenacity – Maclean’s parents have taken an equity stake in the business and last year he secured a loan from the West of Scotland Loan Fund. Scottish Enterprise has also helped with finance. In the very early days, he remortgaged his flat, sold his car and even his bike to get the business off the ground. And he’s not hanging around. Maclean is already exploring the development of a range of ready meals and sees “massive potential” to grow the Eat Balanced brand across the UK. He’s also looking at introducing new pizzas to the existing range and is currently talking to the award-winning artisan producer of wild venison salamis and smoked venison, Great Glen Game, based near Fort William. Maclean has certainly come a long way in a relatively short space of time. One of a new breed of Scottish food and drink entrepreneurs determined to make his stamp on the industry, Donnie Maclean’s name is one to watch with interest. n

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leap of faith bears fruit A lifechanging career shift for David Craig and Scott Robertson led them on a path down the Cyde Valley to their own thriving virgin tomato growing business, as Karen Peattie reports It is mid-afternoon on an early June day – a gloriously hot one in the Clyde Valley with conditions that are absolutely perfect for growing tomatoes. But for David Craig and Scott Robertson there is no time to sit back and enjoy the sunshine. The business partners have been up and about since 3.30am, taking produce to Glasgow’s wholesale fruit market – and the day is far from done. For the virgin tomato growers, this is a typical day although they admit to looking forward

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to a rare night out later on that evening. “It’ll be the first time we’ve been out anywhere for almost a month,” says Craig, who was marketing manager at upmarket US grocer Whole Foods Market in Glasgow before swapping the 9-5 stability for life as a food producer. Both Craig and Robertson, previously a civilian police officer, look equally hot and bothered as they check their vines in the stifling heat although they wouldn’t have it any other

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way. Home for the pair is currently a vintage Debonair Super mobile home, right outside the greenhouses near Lanark where their ambition is to revive a once-mighty agricultural sector and put food-producing in this lush and green part of Lanarkshire firmly back on the menu. Visitors to farmers’ markets in Glasgow and Edinburgh have been snapping up the brightly-coloured Clyde Valley Tomatoes packs – strawberries and cucumbers are also grown on-site. Dobbies Garden Centres all >>

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over Scotland are selling them while there has been a successful tie-up with Scotty Brand, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Albert Bartlett, another Lanarkshire-based producer and the UK’s leading grower and packer of potatoes, to sell the brand in Dobbies south of the Border. Ducking as a couple of house martins fly overhead – they’re permanent residents in the boiler house during the summer months and a protected species so can’t be removed – Craig and Robertson talk candidly about the lifechanging decision that brought them to the Clyde Valley. “We both always wanted to run our business and our ideas changed monthly,” recalls Craig. “As we’d both worked in retail we thought about a deli but decided that would be too limited. Working for Whole Foods had helped fuel my passion for food and Scott had a sideline producing videos for some of the producers supplying the company – what they were doing really appealed to us.” A chance conversation alerted Craig to a potential opportunity at long-established family tomato business, J&M Craig, and it all snowballed from there. “I went along to have a chat with the owners, Jim and Liz Craig, who had partially retired,” he says. “We clicked and had many, many more meetings around their kitchen table over the next few months and even more meetings with banks and funding bodies.” The pair’s dream edged closer to reality when they secured a funding package worth around £120,000 and jointly funded by the our bank, South Lanarkshire Council and the specialist grower, Scotherbs, based on the outskirts of Dundee. “Scotherbs have given us an interestfree loan to be paid back over three years,” Craig explains. “They don’t want an equity stake in the business – they just want to see us succeed. We’re retailing their herbs at farmers’ markets, after all and what goes better together than tomatoes and basil?” With funding in place and an option to buy the business and its 32-acre site in 2015, Craig and Robertson found themselves in a position to plant out their first 10,000 seedlings in February. With Jim Craig – no relation – staying on to help and mentor them, they are “pretty much” replicating his business model in the first year. “It’s obviously a huge learning curve

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for us and we wouldn’t have managed without Jim’s 40-plus years’ experience,” admits Craig. “Every day we learn something new and pick up hints and tips that will hold us in good stead as we move forward. Jim’s also our harshest critic and that’s been good for us.” With 14 varieties of tomatoes growing over 1.5 acres, taking care of them and nurturing them is a never-ending task. The bees work hard, too – Clyde Valley Tomatoes uses bees to provide 100% pollination with two new hives brought in every fortnight at a cost of 40p per bee. “By using bees we optimise our yield,” says Craig. “We also introduce beneficial bugs to the greenhouse to kill the nasty ones.” As with any business start-up it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the young tomato growers.

Every day we pick up hints and tips that will hold us in good stead as we move forward Poor spring weather delayed the first harvest by about three weeks and a couple of varieties haven’t performed as well as expected. Ailsa Craig, a much-loved Scottish heritage variety 40 years ago, has been disappointing. Craig explains: “Back in the day this variety would have been grown in a wooden greenhouse so that may be one reason why it’s not performing as well as we hoped. You also take a risk with heritage varieties because they can introduce disease to the rest of the crop.” But there will be no waste as it is hoped the lesser-performing varieties will be used for value-added products such as chutney and ketchup. “We’re talking to a few processing partners and have interest from a national distributor,” Craig confirms. “We see a lot of scope for growing the Clyde Valley brand in the future. With our cucumbers, for example, I see potential in developing a range along the lines of Rick’s Picks, the American pickled vegetables brand I came across at

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Whole Foods.” Meanwhile, customers are fast discovering the wonderful flavours, aromas, shapes and sizes of varieties such as Claree red cherry, Ardilles medium plum, Lajaune yellow cherry, tiger stripe, Sunchicola black cherry, classic red varieties Encore and Calvano, and the pumpkin-shaped Coeur de Boeuf that works well as a tomato carpaccio. “We took Jim’s advice to grow quite a bit of classic Scotch, the thinking being that we would limit our risk should we fail to attract interest in other varieties,” explains Craig. “However, the demand for specialist varieties has been exceptional, and we’re just not interested in competing at the commodity end of the market. We’re already making plans for next year’s crop.” Promoting and marketing the Clyde Valley Tomatoes brand has been crucial although Craig would appear to be a one-man PR machine, his previous marketing experience helping to secure widespread coverage in both national and local press, and even on BBC’s The One Show. “It’s great to get that type of exposure and when we’re at farmers’ markets people recognise us,” says Craig. “I always do Edinburgh and Scott does Glasgow, so regular visitors get to know us and we get to know them. We also have an eye-catching and really strong brand, designed by Graven Images in Glasgow – it makes us stand out. “However, we’ve been getting people turning up looking to buy tomatoes and they don’t understand why we’re unable to supply them. We had an order ready for Dobbies and someone said, ‘Why can’t we have those?’ and I had to explain that they were for an existing customer. Without meaning to sound bigheaded we have, to an extent, been a victim of our success. Around the time of The One Show we were getting eight new enquiries a day. “But unless your product is right you can spend as much as you like on PR and it still won’t sell,” he continues. “There’s also the proven health benefits of tomatoes which gives us another selling point. You need a point of difference and a good story behind the product.” Clyde Valley Tomatoes certainly has that in abundance. Next year, another half-acre will be >>

FOOD & DRINK IN SCOTLAND


FOOD & DRINK IN SCOTLAND

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SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 13


INTERVIEW

SUMMER 13

Our aim is to convince people they don’t have to buy cheaper Dutch imports

available for growing which will enable production to increase by 50%. This will mean taking on more people during the peak season. Currently, there are three full-time staff, plus Craig and Robertson and, of course, Jim Craig although his involvement will scale back.

SPECIAL REPORT | SUMMER 13

For the budding entrepreneurs, it has been hugely satisfying to see the regeneration of the tomato industry in this part of Scotland. At one point, the Clyde Valley was the source of all tomatoes for Scotland and the north of England. “We need to grow more produce in Scotland,” Craig believes. “Our weather

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means it’s difficult but as a country we need to be more self-sufficient and sustainable.” Meanwhile, Craig and Robertson are working with the Resource Efficient Scotland (formerly the Carbon Trust) on a renewable energies product which will see the introduction of a woodchip boiler and reduce energy costs by over £70,000 – a welcome development after this year’s additional weather-related costs. “March was the coldest March for 50 years and we had to spend an extra £25,000 on fuel that we hadn’t budgeted for, and that hurt,” says Craig. “Reducing our costs so significantly could really open up mass-market opportunities for us.” That unexpected setback aside, the business is on target to turn over £300,000 in its first year and will continue to build relationships with customers such as Dobbies, Tesco – via Scotty Brand – and Scotmid. Farmers’ markets and farm shops will also be important for gaining further exposure for the brand although Craig is keen to build the business with bigger retailers. “That’s where we see most of our growth and while we would never turn our backs on farmers’ markets they are resource heavy and we need to be aiming for massmarket sales,” he says. “Our aim is to convince people they don’t have to buy the cheaper Dutch imports when they can get a fresher, more flavoursome product that is grown right here at home and handpicked,” Craig goes on. For Craig and Robertson, Clyde Valley Tomatoes really is a labour of love. “It’s a complete lifestyle change and harder than we ever imagined it would be,” Craig concedes. “In fact, living in the caravan is the least stressful part of it! There have been highs and lows but we’re at the start of an amazing journey – this is just the beginning for Clyde Valley Tomatoes.” n

FOOD & DRINK IN SCOTLAND


Food and drink is now Scotland’s fastest-growing export sector so it’s crucial that we tap into the emerging markets James withers, Scotland Food & Drink

www.bq-magazine.co.uk

Food and Drink in Scotland  

BQ2 Special Report

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