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Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight 2019

Opportunities for Scottish Suppliers

This Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight, Scotland Food & Drink, Scotland Excel, and Food for Life Scotland came together to highlight the opportunities available to local food businesses in supplying Scotland’s public sector.

Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight, which took place from 31 August to 15 September, this year celebrated 10 years of showcasing and supporting the companies, brands and people who are championing our country’s larder, enabling them to take advantage of the growing consumer demand for Scottish food and drink.

Every year, the public sector in Scotland spends almost £150 million on food and drink. Over a third of local authority money spent on Scotland Excel frameworks, which covers areas such as school meals, is now spent on food that has been produced or manufactured in Scotland – a figure that has grown by more than half since 2015. With a growing opportunity for Scotland’s producers, there has never been a better time for Scottish food businesses to get involved in supplying public foodservice.

Image: Achnagairn Farm, Inverness, suppliers to Swanson's Food Wholesalers

Currently, Scotland Food & Drink is working towards Ambition 2030, an industry-led, ambitious strategy with collaboration from industry, government and its agencies and which aims to double the size of the food and drink industry in Scotland to £30 billion in turnover by 2030. Lucy Husband, UK Market Development Director at Scotland Food & Drink, said: "As we celebrate Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight, it’s great to see that recent public procurement framework developments have resulted in the sector introducing more local suppliers to their facilities across the country. Supplying the public sector can be very profitable for Scottish food and drink producers, and Scotland Food & Drink are working closely with Scotland Excel to highlight these opportunities.  We need Scottish suppliers to engage in this lucrative sector and will be providing future support to understand the changing dynamics and increase in opportunities it brings.”

For food producers and suppliers, the public sector can be a rewarding client. As Andrew Kennedy, Head of Facilities & Property Management at East Ayrshire Council, who have supported local procurement for over 10 years working with a range of local suppliers, puts it: “We pay our bills! And the continuity of demand, particularly with school meals, means there’s a fairly consistent level of supply requirement which is a positive from a supplier’s point of view.”

As well as reliability, supplying local authority contracts can help to connect businesses more closely to the local community. Magnus Swanson is the owner and Managing Director at Swanson’s Food Wholesalers, who supply The Highland Council with fresh fruit and vegetables for their school meals. Speaking after a recent event to celebrate ten years of the Council’s Soil Association Food for Life Served Here award, he said: “We’ve been supplying Highland Council with fresh fruit and vegetables for seven years now. Not only do we take great comfort in the fact that our children are being fed the best of local produce, but this also helps to promote what fantastic food is on our doorstep and at the same time supports local farming and agriculture. As a local company we love to support local as much as possible.”

It’s not just larger companies that are getting involved. Recent developments of the national procurement frameworks have successfully increased the number of SMEs supplying Scotland’s public sector. Lynsey Gordon is a Category Manager at Scotland Excel within the Corporate & Education Team, with a remit including the four food frameworks used by schools across Scotland worth approximately £75 million per annum. She explains: “At Scotland Excel we’ve thought hard about how to encourage a bit more competition in the marketplace and get smaller suppliers onto our frameworks.

“That means looking at options like including lots for supply-only, where suppliers can deliver into a distributor who will handle the delivery to schools. We included that in our updated frozen food framework which went live just over two years ago and brought seven new SMEs onto the framework, so we’ll be doing the same for our upcoming groceries and provisions framework too.”

Image: Achnagairn Farm, Inverness, suppliers to Swanson's Food Wholesalers

Meanwhile, local authorities are seeking out opportunities to support their local suppliers. Jayne Jones, National Chair of ASSIST FM, the voice of Scottish local authorities, said: “Local authorities across Scotland are already making great strides in supporting local food businesses through their procurement. But we know there’s the opportunity to do even more.

“Buying food and drink locally is investing public money back into the local economy, which supports local business and boosts employment. It also ensures that produce is fresh, and shorter delivery distances mean lower food miles, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Putting high quality Scottish food on the public plate benefits everybody involved.”

With a Good Food Nation Bill on the horizon, supporting local sourcing is high on the political agenda. The Scottish Government has signalled its commitment to increasing Scottish sourcing in public procurement through investment in programmes such as Food for Life Scotland, which supports local authorities to serve freshly prepared, locally sourced, sustainable school meals through the Food for Life Served Here award.

Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, said: ““Through our Food for Life programme the Scottish Government is ensuring that more school children than ever are able to access healthy and nutritious meals that have been sourced, grown and produced locally. Scotland has a natural larder that is the envy of the world, and so it’s vital that we do everything we can to encourage more people – including public sector organisations – to look to Scotland first when considering food options.”

If you are a Scottish supplier that would love to see your product on the plates of school children across the country, or a local authority that wants to take advantage of the top-quality Scottish food available in your area, get in touch. Food for Life Scotland’s supply chain officer, Lucie Wardle, is happy to help and can be contacted directly via LWardle@soilassociation.org.  

Suppliers can also find support from the Supplier Development Programme https://www.sdpscotland.co.uk/ and find contract opportunities on Public Contracts Scotland https://www.publiccontractsscotland.gov.uk/

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