Exploring the Scottish opportunity

23 January 2023, 07:53 AM
  • With Burns Night fast approaching, we take a look at Scottish food and drink, a jewel in the country’s crown, and examine how it is perfectly tailored to speciality retail
Exploring the Scottish opportunity

Rugged landscapes, awe-inspiring views and hearty fare; Scotland has a lot going for it, not least its stunning array of food and drink.

As Fiona Richmond, head of regional food at Scotland Food and Drink explains, “Scotland’s reputation as a land of food and drink speaks for itself. From clear, clean waters to fertile arable land, our environment is one of the key contributors to creating great tasting, quality produce. We truly have one of the best natural larders in the world.”

This isn’t new knowledge, as Will Docker, co-founder of Balgove Larder, explains, “Scotland has always punched well above its weight when it comes to world-class produce.

“Its temperate climate, ample rainfall and hardworking and resourceful inhabitants are the perfect ingredients to maximise the potential of this beautiful country. The traditional breeds of livestock have been bred over hundreds if not thousands of years to suit the landscape as a priority, resulting in slow-growing delicious meat.

“The regional microclimates and long daylight hours in the spring and summer provide a perfect variety of conditions for a variety of specialist crops and the seas have always been abundant with fish and shellfish. The low population density is a major plus point – lots of wild land for the deer and other game to run free.”

Land of innovation
What makes Scottish produce so special however is the desire to innovate using unique local ingredients.

According to Fiona, “We have a passionate and entrepreneurial industry filled with talented people driven to build a food and drink destination focused on quality. As a result, Scottish food and drink continues to push boundaries as one of Scotland’s most successful sectors.”

One example of this is SHORE, based in Wick, one of the most remote communities in the UK. As co-founder Keith Paterson, explains, “Scotland is fortunate to have an extensive larder of fantastic produce, an inspiration to anyone wanting to make artisan food. I think the variety of products stands out, from the traditional heritage favourites to an increasing mix of new and innovative products.

“At SHORE we showcase a plant-based hero that’s grown right here on our doorstep – seaweed. We use it as a flavour base to make delicious snacks, pestos and broths.

“In many ways, we are bringing back a historical Scottish food product, one that is vital to the future of a sustainable food chain. The waters around the North of Scotland provide the perfect environment for nutritious seaweed to thrive. This abundant natural resource can be turned into a local superfood with just a little bit of know-how”, he adds.

Similarly, Eden Mill Distillery in St Andrews, utilises local ingredients that can only be found in Scotland, to bring something truly unique to the fine food and drink industry.

Matthew Turner, marketing director for the brand, tells Speciality Food, “Drinks brands, like ourselves, pride themselves on using locally sourced ingredients and have a very strong sense of place, which is great for putting lesser-known, and often more remote, places on the map, encouraging people from all over the world to visit.

“Our location on the Scottish coastline inspired us to use sea buckthorn berries in our Original Gin, a botanical that thrives in harsh, salty conditions and that brings a tart berry flavour to this gin. Our Golf Gin – a nod to our St Andrews roots – has a seaweed base and a touch of quintessentially Scottish heather, which adds a floral undertone.

“We have also recently released Ramsay’s Gin, created in collaboration with Michelin-star chef and fellow Scot Gordon Ramsay, which features Mara seaweed and honeyberries, both sourced in Fife.”

Tailored to fine food retail
What makes Scottish produce well-placed to cater to the fine foodies is its small-batch nature, being such an unpopulated country.

According to Fiona, “There are few mass-produced products in Scotland meaning that as well as providing premium produce, there is a level of exclusivity to much of what we make. These factors ensure that consumers are aware that every side of Scottish smoked salmon, small-batch beer, or craft gin is of the highest quality.

“Scottish products often have a strong sense of place, and articulating the farm-to-fork journey of products is a key driver of sales in the fine food market.”

This is something Rory Mellis, director of I.J. Mellis in Edinburgh, has also noticed in the Scottish artisan cheese sphere.

“I think for me the reason Scottish produce is quite special is the community, we’re still a small country. When there’s a new cheese in Scotland, that’s exciting to see as it’s not getting washed up in all the new cheese production you see in mainland Europe.

“Also, a lot of people don’t realise the rich history that we have and so the stories behind the cheesemakers are really special”, he explains.

When it comes to stocking Scottish produce in indie retail, Keith tells Speciality Food that, “Outside of luxuries, sustainability and better-for-you will be two key factors for artisan products moving forward, local products that can combine one or both of these elements while still delivering on flavour will thrive.”

“Our research shows that consumers are looking to connect with the people and places associated with their food and drink purchases and there is a growing trend in artisanal food especially”, adds Malcolm Roughead, CEO of Visit Scotland.

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