Ben Walker, Head of Consumer Practice at Livingston James was delighted to host a Round Table at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society for business leaders from key Scottish consumer businesses around the theme of ‘Raising Our Game to 2030’. James Withers, CEO of Scotland Food & Drink kindly chaired the event and the aim of the discussion was to develop ideas around what the industry can do to help the industry grow.
With a great mix of backgrounds covering food, drink, professional services and, of course, the key industry body there was active debate around several important issues. One of the clear messages was the need to be ‘brave behind the brand’ ensuring a realistic strategy is in place, with the correct level of investment and to then stay true to the brand message. Part of getting the brand correct is understanding your target market and there was universal agreement that Scottish produce is synonymous with high quality and that marketing should reflect this.
Interesting was the feeling for some that overly playing the Scottish heritage was not important as the global consumer was more interested in the product than its heritage, yet for others, the Scottish branding proved the products authenticity – and thus associated quality. What was unanimous is that Scotland Food and Drink have done a great job at promoting the provenance of Scottish produce to the international markets and the need is to ensure that we continue to grow those markets exponentially.
There was a consensus around the requirement to improve the promotion of the industry as an exciting, interesting and rewarding place to work as it can sometimes be misconstrued as quite slow and safe compared to, for example, the digital industry growing so quickly north of the border. To avoid a talent exodus south it was agreed that engagement with a younger audience through education at school would provide a better platform for understanding the breadth of the industry, and the idea of creating an industry-wide apprenticeship scheme received strong support, although it was acknowledged that this would require funding for smaller firms for whom the revenue is not available.
There was a very positive mood about the industry as a whole with the growth in the craft beer industry, salmon farming, whisky, and gin, amongst others, with an element of frustration that often Government policy can be restrictive in promoting specific sectors and can send negative messages about the products. Cleary the role of Scotland Food and Drink, and especially James Withers is to engage the relevant ministers in constructive dialogue and help them understand what the industry needs to flourish.
So what is the vision for the next 15 years? Invest in brands, work more collectively in developing new markets, maintain the quality, promote the industry domestically and internationally and never lose sight of the need to constantly innovate and improve.
The industry experts were Craig Anderson, CEO, Scottish Salmon Company; Elsa Jack, Director, EJ&C; Neil Boyd, Commercial Director, Ian Macleod Distillers; Larry Weil, Director of International Business Development, Innis & Gunn; Peter Mooney, Director, Achieving Goals; Andrew Ley, Partner, HBJ Gateley; Fergus Hartley, Global Brands Director, Bacardi; Andrew Ewing, Partner, Johnston Carmichael; Allan Miller, Sales & Marketing Director, Paterson Arran and James Withers, CEO, Scotland Food & Drink.
Livingston James is planning to hold regular Round Table events with specific sector focus so please keep an eye out for further industry updates.