Chapter One of the Food & Drink Journey with Livingston James

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As Livingston James prepares to partner with Scotland Food & Drink on its Leadership Dinner event series, Ben Walker, Head of Consumer and Agribusiness at Livingston James, shares his thoughts on the challenges that currently face Scotland’s food and drink businesses.

As Scotland Food & Drink launched their target in 2017 of £30b turnover across the sector by 2030, it is the perfect time for Livingston James to be partnering them in developing this ambition into reality.

Livingston James is co-sponsoring the Leadership Dinners, a series of eight events across the country that will take place in Aberdeen, Inverness, Dumfries, Dundee and the two main city hubs.  Each event will gather senior executives from a wide range of leading companies across farming, fishing, food, and drink.

In my remit as head of Consumer and Agribusiness at Livingston James, my role is to assist the attendees to participate fully in developing the right strategy and growth plans to achieve the 2030 goal.

There are more than 900 companies in the sector turning over £14 billion with exports making up more than a third of the total figure. Our key export market is still England followed closely by mainland Europe, but increasingly growth in markets further afield is proving vital.

The provenance of Scottish produce is increasingly important and although whisky still makes up 80% of all exports, increasingly salmon, wildfish, shellfish, beef, poultry, and lamb are playing a significant part. Domestically the bakery and fruit sectors are also enjoying considerable success.

Collaboration across the sector could significantly enhance the collective strength of the product range, which is why events like the Leadership Dinners are essential, bringing together contacts, advising the relevant networks, building mutually beneficial relationships, and sourcing the highest calibre skills for the industry.

This increased collaboration could strengthen the industry against the potential pitfalls ahead, including the challenges posed by Brexit. Whilst the resulting regulatory changes may prove beneficial to the fishing industry by allowing more control of key fishing regions, they could also severely hinder many agricultural businesses heavily reliant on European labour. Any major currency fluctuations can affect exports and imports, thus influencing raw material and distribution costs.  There is also a need for greater Government support into infrastructure to help promote investment for growth.

Whilst the challenges are real, there are many positive aspects worth reflecting on.  There is enviable stability amongst most of the larger Scottish Food & Drink companies and an increasing number of new start-ups appearing. The Scottish drinks sector has experienced a resurgence, especially in gin, craft beer, and the revitalisation of several whisky distilleries.  In addition there is an expanding range of healthy consumer products designed to balance our increasingly hectic lifestyles. Just some of the companies that are rapidly becoming household names include Genius Foods, Pickering’s Gin, Mara Seafood, Scottish Salmon Company, Bon Accord, Loch Fyne and Innis & Gunn, to name a few.

The first of the Leadership Dinners takes place on 13th September in Aberdeen.   To find out more, or to discuss how Livingston James could benefit your food and drink business, please call 0131 220 2209 or email on [email protected].

Livingston James is an executive search and selection business that exists to match professional expertise to business need.  We leave behind the generalist approach, instead taking the time to understand what your business needs to achieve success and using our industry knowledge and experience in order to get you there. 


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