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Scotland enters a new era: retailers are working with regional suppliers to take Scottish food and drink to a new level.

The Scottish food and drink industry has been given a welcome shot in the arm by the rise of local and regional sourcing. But though sales have risen, it hasn't put its full weight behind a cross-industry marketing campaign--until now.


Last month saw the launch of Scotland Food and Drink, a new marketing organisation that has set out its stall to build a strong and distinctive identity for food and drink in Scotland, to concentrate on collaboration across the supply chain and to put effective business development support in place.

The idea is to start showing the UK and indeed the world what Scottish food and drink can offer in the same way as Ireland and Wales have. The newly created organisation aims to boost the Scottish grocery industry from 7.9bn [pounds sterling] to 10bn [pounds sterling] by 2017.

"This is a tremendously exciting time to be involved in this growth industry and I fully embrace the challenges presented by my new role," says chairman Allan Burns.

"Our initial priorities are to build a strong and distinctive identity for food and drink in Scotland," he says.

The good news is that there's plenty to shout about.

The leading five Scottish food and drink companies in Scotland are all in good shape, with most reporting a growth in sales in the past year.

Pretty much every sector within the industry is performing well, ac cording to Maggie McGinlay, director of food and drink at Scottish Enterprise. In fact, food and drink in Scotland outperformed the average annual growth of the UK food and drink industry and the Scottish economy between 1999 and 2005. In the five years to 2006, fruit and vegetables was the most significant growth area for Scotland, according to Experian, growing 23% compared with soft drinks, fish and meat at 3.3%, 3.1% and 1.6% respectively.

Scottish farmers and fishermen provide more than a third of the country's raw food materials and are major suppliers to the UK industry. The country also excels in the international marketplace, with 3.65bn [pounds sterling] of food and drink exported in 2005 and a similar figure expected to be confirmed for 2006.

The industry now needs to make a stronger play of the provenance of Scottish products to drive consumer demand and ultimately sales, says McGinlay: "a lot of companies are weaving provenance into their branding." She also noted that many of the major supermarkets are doing more to inform customers about the origins of food by identifying the farmers and fishermen who supply their products.

"Scottish provenance is important to Scottish consumers who like to buy local produce," says Richard Hollingdale, sales and marketing director of First Milk Cheese. The company recently launched Scottish Pride Cheddar, which is produced using only Scottish milk.

While Scotland as a brand carries weight, other factors are just as important in getting a product on the shelves, McGinlay adds: "Innovation, quality, process, presentation, packaging, branding, timely deliveries and product support are vital, and we have been working to help companies get these right."

Supermarkets have been doing their bit to forge stronger relationships with suppliers in Scot land. Tesco, for example, holds supplier conferences, runs free technical courses and invites suppliers on behind-the-scenes and front-of-store visits. It is also working with growers to highlight seasonality. Sainsbury's, meanwhile, took on 35 new Scottish suppliers last year and developed closer relationships with existing suppliers to create NPD opportunities. Its Taste the Difference and premium brands have benefited, especially in fish and soft fruit. Like Tesco, the company has also launched information booklets on its regional suppliers and produced recipe cards, as well as running promotions across all categories to highlight Scottish products.

Morrisons sells many products from Scotland. Its Scotch beef and lamb is promoted each week in Scottish stores. Loose Scotch beef was launched this summer at the meat counters of 70 English stores and is performing well. All of Morrisons' Best Beef range is Scotch and stocked in most UK stores.
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Title Annotation:scotland: top 50 companies
Author:Holmyard, Nicki
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 8, 2007
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