FROM cheese vending machines to a surge in local deliveries, businesses across Scotland have been forced to make radical changes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now more than 120 Scottish food and drink firms including brewers, dairies and seafood sellers have signed up to a new online directory aimed at helping them through the lockdown.

The website,, seeks to connect consumers directly with businesses, allowing them to showcase their produce and attract new customers.

Many firms have had to turn to online sales following the closure of pubs, restaurants and shops during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Lucy Husband, UK market development director at industry body Scotland Food and Drink, said the impact of the coronavirus restrictions “has changed the way we shop and forced many food and drink businesses to significantly adapt their approaches”.

She said: “While more and more of us are shopping for food and drink online, the appetite for high-quality, local products remains strong.

“In fact, our research shows that 70 per cent of Scottish consumers believe it’s important to have locally sourced produce available, and 49% of Scottish shoppers also claim they would be willing to pay more for Scottish produce.

“We’re proud to launch to meet that demand and provide a useful platform for businesses to reach new consumers.

“In this incredibly difficult time for so many people, food and drink producers have shown resilience in their ability to innovate and adapt.

“Scotland boasts some of the best food and drink products in the world, and we should all endeavour to support local producers and enjoy the fruits of Scotland’s larder.”

Scotland Food and Drink said many businesses that previously supplied the food and hospitality sectors have now “pivoted to consumer-facing e-commerce to continue trading”.

At the same time, consumers have increasingly turned their attention to online purchasing and there is a renewed interest in supporting local firms.

The platform will allow consumers to browse Scottish food and drink suppliers and search by product type and location.

The online resource aims to increase its reach across Scotland and a variety of different sectors, and is calling for suppliers of all sizes to sign up.

Jill Clark, owner of Connage Highland Dairy near Inverness, is among those forced to make changes to stay afloat.

She said: “Things have been tough but we have been so touched by the support we have received from customers old and new, both locally and nationwide.

“There have been big changes at Connage – more local deliveries, more products online, plans for a cheese vending machine put into action and very sadly some of our team furloughed – but I think this is teaching us all about patience and the importance of connection.

“Small businesses can be a lifeline for many, especially in rural areas, and in turn those who continue to shop with us are our lifeline.

“The relationship serves to reduce loneliness and keep the local economy going.

“I am optimistic that this surge in support for local shopping will continue beyond current circumstances and I am certainly still enormously proud to be part of Scotland’s resilient food and drink industry.”

Connage Highland Diary has won multiple awards for its cheeses.

Ms Clark told the OnFARM podcast the vending machine plans had been in the pipeline for a while.

She said: “We just have to get it all connected and things.

“We’ll have a milk vending machine, but we’ve also got a chilled vending machine, so we’ll be able to sell our vacuum-packed portions and any of the cheeses that we make.”

She said the new vending machines will offer “different things in different seasons”, and will allow customers to come and help themselves.

Scott Smith, chef and co-owner of Edinburgh restaurant Fhior, is supporting its food and drink suppliers through his Root to Market initiative, which connects local suppliers to consumers.

He said: “The landscape of the hospitality industry has changed so dramatically over the past weeks.

“However the need for food hasn’t, and the issue of how to get that to people has been a huge challenge that thankfully, so many independent businesses have taken up.

“It is so important that we continue to create new routes for our small, local producers to get their food to the public in the safest way possible.

“It has been amazing to see such a wave of people getting behind their local economies, supporting our country’s producers and protecting local jobs.

“In the midst of huge uncertainty and the devastation caused by this crisis, we are seeing a renewed sense of community and care for each other.”

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing welcomed the new website.

He said: “Scotland’s food and drink is world renowned and has been one of our most successful contributors to the economy in recent times.

“Overnight that changed for many home grown producers and manufacturers, so it is vital that we all do what we can to support Scottish businesses.

“The new Support Local website will give people the chance to buy fantastic locally sourced and locally produced food and drink direct at the click of a button from home

“It’s great to see so many Scottish companies have signed up to showcase their produce through the portal already, and I hope to see many more joining. There has never been a more important time to promote and buy great Scottish produce. I urge everyone to support this great initiative and help make it a success.”

The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) previously warned pubs may not survive the coronavirus lockdown unless they receive the financial support they need. 

Camra said pubs and brewers were among the first hit by the measures to combat the pandemic and will be among the last to re-open.

The Scottish Government has indicated restrictions on everyday life could continue into next year and gatherings in pubs and other venues are likely to be banned or limited “for some time to come”.

It also said the lockdown may be repeatedly eased and reimposed “with little notice” until a vaccine or treatment is found.