IT says something about the importance of food and drink when the First Minister, last week of all weeks, finds time to take part in the annual general meeting in Glasgow of Scotland’s national food and drink agency for the first time. Dressed in black out of respect for the victims of the Westminster attack, her presence added gravitas to the occasion.

The unprecedented move can be partly explained by the fact that Scotland Food and Drink – which supports some 365 producer members – was marking its 10th anniversary. Since the launch of its growth strategy, turnover has increased 44 per cent to hit £14.4 billion. With oil industry revenues currently in decline, this means the sector is the most successful in recent years after being static 10 years ago. The First Minister was there to applaud that, announcing a £10m birthday gift to help it double in value to a stonking £30bn by 2030.

But there were other reasons for her presence. Growing the Scottish brand in the context of Brexit negotiations will require the strength of renewed collaboration and partnership within the industry. It is noticeable that the new growth strategy, Ambition 2030, embraces farming and fishing along with food and drink in its title for the first time.

Farmers and crofters – the industry’s raw materials, as it were – must be made part of the success story so they get a share of the benefits. But the question as to what will replace the £500m EU CAP subsidy is yet to be answered.

Strengthening existing and developing new markets in England is seen as vital. Sales of Scottish brands across the UK have risen 36 per cent since 2007, and research shows that Londoners recognise Scottish as better quality, and even Scottish gin as better than their own.

It was particularly interesting to hear market analysis that suggests consumers have reached peak era of buying stuff online, and now crave experiences they can share.

Immersive dining, pioneered by Paul Pairet’s experimental restaurant concept in Shanghai, where the meal “unfolds as a play and each course is enhanced with its own taste-tailored atmosphere such as lights, sounds, music, scents, projection, images and imagination”; and getting customers to queue quite happily for five hours for an East London In-N-Out pop-up burger last year, were examples of how to create a buzz, a feeling that “this is where it’s at”.

Food tourism is massive, yet it’s been largely untapped. The dynamic Scottish Tourism Alliance is now on the case, driven by the new social media-savvy demographic that will happily cross the globe at the drop of a hat. Yet connectivity remains a huge issue in many areas. Telecommunications is a reserved matter and patchy broadband coverage is effectively freezing some rural businesses out of the market. The cabinet secretary for that very chestnut, Fergus Ewing, said his mobile action plan will see more phone masts go up, and that work is ongoing to help rural communities join the global e-commerce phenomenon so brilliantly exploited by the likes of Uber and Airbnb.

With so much at stake, it’s clear the Scottish brand is now about much more than eating and drinking.