With local retailers turning to local produce to boost sales in the fast-growing fresh category, Clydesdale Bank’s support of Scottish food and drink producers through a partnership with Scotland Food & Drink, could lead to further success for c-stores.
by Stuart McCallum
Scotland is renowned for its wonderful larder containing some of the best natural produce in the world. Salmon, whisky, Scotch beef and lamb, and soft fruits all have a reputation for quality across the world.
The growing demand for Scottish food and drink means that the sector is now a key driver of the Scottish economy. And, despite the prevailing economic challenges, the sector has major growth aspirations with a target of increasing the value of the industry to £12.5bn by 2017.
Clydesdale Bank, a long-time supporter of the food and drink sector, also aims to further enhance its role in the industry’s success. By providing funding and other forms of support we are well placed to help Scottish food and drink businesses realise their ambitions.
While our main role in supporting food and drink businesses is providing access to finance, we also offer economic expertise and insight into the sector. In March we formed a strategic partnership with Scotland Food & Drink to help grow the industry. By taking a ‘shared knowledge’ approach, we’re committed to helping Scottish companies become more economically sustainable and to exploit the commercial opportunities that exist.
Undoubtedly, one of the key targets for expansion is the domestic market. In recent years there has been an increased demand for locally produced goods; with growing awareness of the distance – or food miles – food and drink travels in order to end up on our plates. Consumers are increasingly conscious of the adverse impact on the environment of importing produce from overseas.
There has also been a renewed interest in the provenance of food, most recently prompted by the discovery of horsemeat in a number of convenience foods. Following the disclosure, retailers have reported a rise in the number of consumers buying fresh meat and chicken. By cooking meals from scratch, consumers can be much more confident about the content of the food they eat. Other advantages of home-cooking are that it is often healthier than convenience foods, and it improves family time –families are more likely to sit round a table and eat a communal meal when it has been prepared at home
The rise of TV cookery programmes is also contributing to a surge in demand for local, seasonal goods. Celebrity chefs, including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Rick Stein, are key advocates of supporting local producers and eating seasonal food.
Clydesdale Bank customer Clyde Valley Tomatoes is a great example of a supplier that has chosen to focus on local markets. After receiving funding from us in November last year, the firm is on track to grow 100 tonnes of tomatoes annually in purpose-built glasshouses which had lain empty for over a year. Industry support for the business has been fantastic. Among the retailers which have agreed to stock Clyde Valley Tomatoes to date are Dobbies Garden Centres nationwide, Earthy Foods in Edinburgh, Whole Foods Market in Glasgow, 14 farmshops and the farmers’ markets in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
For other food and drink businesses, exports will continue to form a significant source of revenue. For example, Scotch whisky, which is worth more than £4bn to the Scottish economy, is now one of the UK’s biggest exports. But equally, demand for quality Scotch remains high closer to home, as another Clydesdale Bank customer, Kilchoman Distillery, has found.
We recently provided £450,000 for Kilchoman Distillery – based on Islay and one of the smallest of its kind in Scotland – to build a bonded warehouse to store more casks of spirit. Since going into production in 2007, Kilchomanas Scotch whiskies are now available in 30 markets, including Canada and Taiwan, but some of its strongest sales are achieved right here in the UK. When it comes to quality, the message is that consumers continue to be willing to pay for world-class food and drink grown and produced in Scotland.