Scotland Food & Drink Leadership Dinners 2017/18

Ben Walker, Head of Consumer and Agribusiness at Livingston James, discusses the views and opinions from the series of eight Scotland Food & Drink Leadership dinners held in Aberdeen, Inverness, Dumfries, Orkney, Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh and the Borders.

It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but what do you get when you a put a fisherman, a distiller, a farmer, a baker and brewer all in the same room and feed them great food and fine wine? Actually you get insight, passion, experience, opinion and plenty of good humour.

Livingston James has been delighted to sponsor the 2017/18 series of Scotland Food & Drink (SF&D) Leadership Dinners in partnership with RSM and Morisons LLP. Well over 200 business leaders have attended the events across the country and given up their time and expertise to help build a better picture of how the sector can grow. Every meal had a series of questions which were debated by each table and then summarised by the sponsors. It provided an excellent platform for clearer understanding of the different requirement of producers, processors, distributors, retailers, and consumers (and the many other elements along the supply chain) and has provided the team at SF&D with plenty of insight to build into their strategy for 2030.

There were several elements which repeated themselves at most events and are worth summarising:

  • There is real positivity about the sector’s ability to grow
  • Much more effort needs to be put into educating the local population about the quality and diversity of Scottish produce, starting at school level
  • There needs to be greater collaboration across the industry
  • Export is vital to the success of much of the sector but never forget that the majority of our current production is still sold within the UK
  • Price is still the key driver in most markets
  • We must be careful not to be too reliant on the global phenomenon of whisky, yet ensure the provenance of Scottish products benefit from its success
  • A key issue is securing the right employees with certain sectors struggling to find local staff (fruit and vegetable production, fish farming and abattoirs were some of the examples)
  • Brexit is going to play a part and whilst most people are confident they can work through it, there is a strong feeling of unease amongst the farming and fishing communities

What is glaringly obvious is the real pride people have for their work. There was also a great deal of positivity about the work that SF&D is doing, the international markets they are helping to open up, the ongoing dialogue, and the success they have had in giving the whole sector a much more prominent position in the public eye.

Nobody thinks it will be easy to get to the £30b value of food and drink by 2030, but what was refreshing and encouraging is that nobody is scared of trying.

This is an industry that Scotland can rightly be proud of. The quality of produce, the passion of the people and the prospects for the future are all real areas of strength. This is a sector which will continue to grow and add huge amounts of value to the economy and our future and Livingston James will be helping wherever possible to ensure all the business potential is achieved.

To find out more, or to discuss how Livingston James could benefit your food and drink business, please call 0131 220 2209 or email [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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