By Adam Hardie, Head of Food & Drink at Johnston Carmichael

SCOTLAND is famed worldwide for its salmon and whisky. So, it’s understandable these foods play a big role in industry body Scotland Food and Drink’s Ambition 2030 initiative, a plan which aims to grow the sector’s turnover from £14 billion to £30bn by 2030.

But if the food and drink industry is aiming to make Scotland one of the best places in the world to run a food and drink business, it will also need to look to the growing impact of plant-based foods.

The good news is that we already have some fantastic examples of Scottish entrepreneurs making headway in the plant-based market. Take DARING Foods, an innovative Scottish start-up specialising in meat-free alternatives.

Founder Ross Mackay first decided to go on a plant-powered diet three years ago after a friend, who didn’t believe he could go without meat, dared him to. It was a dare which was meant to last just 10 days. But what started as a dare has become a booming business.

Since it launched in January, the Glasgow-based company offering food which is free of meat, dairy, palm oil and genetically modified organisms has gone from strength to strength. its food is available in menus at across nearly 200 different restaurants, it has signed deals with major distributors and is in talks with schools, government bodies and other organisations on ways to make plant-based eating more accessible for everyone. We’ve been proud to support it as it grew.

This is the kind of Scottish business which should be central to a scheme like Ambition 2030, because it’s clear mainstream eating habits have changed. US-based Beyond Meat, which produces burgers that look, cook and satisfy like beef without gluten, was recently valued at $1.5bn.

There’s no reason US companies alone should be making a success story out of plant-based foods. Here in the UK, countless businesses have been jumping on the plant-based bandwagon.

The UK is the fastest-growing market for vegan food products in the world. Last year, the UK plant-based food market grew by 700 per cent. There are an estimated 3.5 million vegans in Britain, but the real demand and opportunity for growth for meat-free alternatives comes from meat-eaters choosing to eat less meat, and having the options to do so. Scotland has an opportunity to become leaders in plant-based foods, not just in the UK, but worldwide.

This is a market which isn’t just about people’s tastes for food – it’s also about the environment and sustainability. Young people have shown they care deeply about the environment, and 80 per cent of millennials have said they won’t stay associated with brands which don’t share their values. When we’re selling Scotland to the world, we should be able to sell a country which is striving to protect the environment.

Salmon and whisky are still industries to be proud of which generate billions for this country each year.

There’s no doubt we have the talent in Scotland to become a huge international player in food and drink. And given the success of Beyond Meat stateside, it is likely that we’ll see home-grown companies like DARING Foods forming a bigger part of Scottish plans to dominate the international food and drink market.

They combine a unique and market-leading product with a clear message that will resonate with this burgeoning market.

Plant-based foods free of meat and dairy are now mainstream. It’s time the Scottish food and drink industry took advantage of this.