When you get 30 of Scotland’s food and drink leaders into the restaurant where Begbie famously threw his pint over the balcony then you are hoping for some lively debate. And we got it.
Kelbourne Saint, which in a previous incarnation famously featured in the original Trainspotting film, provided a great venue that allowed passionate pioneers and established experts the chance to highlight some of the many elements they deem important to ensuring the success of Scotland’s food and drink sector.
In the official Year of Young People there was a very strong theme in this discussion that we have lost the connection with the youth of today around food and drink. This can be a range of issues covering where it comes from, how it is produced, the diversity of the sector, the employment opportunities, a lack of training, and not enough noise around the success stories. Consensus from those present was that we should be engaging with them at a young age and in the home, and not just rely on schools, colleges and universities to shoulder the responsibility.
There continues to be ongoing concern about Brexit and the implications on exporting, labour markets, and the cost of some imported raw materials. Like elsewhere, there is no definitive answer yet, so the frustration continues.
For many of the smaller companies discussion around the difficulty of upscaling was a common theme. Sourcing first stage investment is a challenge and often comes with prohibitive strings attached. Manufacturing is difficult as small scale production is not wanted, a problem being addressed by The Start-Up Drinks Lab, and distribution needs to be supported and coordinated so smaller brands can share a single Scottish platform.
What was also well recognised is that a huge market requiring increased focus is our neighbour England. There is often discussion about Europe, North America, and APAC but a huge percentage of our products only cross Hadrian’s Wall, so developing London and the other key centres is paramount to allow growth.
So there was energy, excitement, opinion, debate and lots of passion, washed down with some fine Apache lager brewed by WEST and delicious food provided by Kelbourne Saint. Scotland Food & Drink was applauded for the ongoing work it carries out, and the efforts being made to unify the different components across the sector, including with Government, development of international markets and the positive energy injected into every event it leads. Long may it continue!
At Livingston James we remain extremely encouraged by the discussions and enthusiasm across the industry and are very pleased to be sponsoring the Scotland Food & Drink Leadership events.