Karen Peattie
SOME 88% of businesses remain optimistic about the future growth of Scotland’s food and drink sector, it has been revealed – with more than half (54%) believing their biggest growth opportunity is within the wider UK market.

A survey of business leaders conducted at Scotland Food & Drink’s industry conference in Edinburgh this week showed that three-quarters (71%) of the 350 people attending felt that consumer demand for local produce has increased over the last year. One-quarter (25%) of delegates (25%) are also looking to international markets for growth.

The conference, which provided a platform to discuss local and global growth opportunities, brought together key figures from across various sectors of Scotland’s food and drink industry and included international buyers alongside household names.

High-profile family-owned butcher John Gilmour, which recently announced plans to build a new £10 million butchery and retail facility at Wallyford in East Lothian to meet growing demand, was among those to give presentations, discuss its business journey, how it is building resilience, market opportunities and its approach to sustainability.

Scotland Food & Drink’s chief executive, Iain Baxter, said the poll highlighted the industry’s ambition as businesses create strategies to seize growth opportunities. “It’s heartening to see such positivity among our membership and wider industry, particularly in the context of myriad challenges facing the sector,” he noted.

“The positive attitude reflects the direction of our industry strategy and, in the weeks and months ahead, we’ll set out the strategic direction to ensure that our sector is sustainable, resilient and growing.

“Events like this give businesses the tools to grow, both locally and globally, and learn from each other as we set out on our joint mission to grow the opportunities for our sector and champion Scotland as a land of food and drink.”

Retail giants Marks & Spencer and Alibaba outlined their view of the market, consumer trends, and what they’re looking for when partnering with Scottish suppliers. There was also a speaker from Dubai’s Food Source.