A SUCCESSFUL programme which helps ambitious food and drink companies access new routes to grow their sales in UK markets has received funding of £111,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
Access to Markets is delivered by industry leadership organisation Scotland Food & Drink (SF&D) and aims to build sales of Scottish food and drink and help businesses exploit new opportunities with UK retailers and across the foodservice sector.
Developing new and high value markets is crucial to the high level Scotland Food & Drink target of growing the food and drink industry turnover in Scotland to £12.5bn by 2017.
The Access to Markets programme provides support to Scottish businesses to help develop their skills, grow their sales and achieve greater commercial success through a range of initiatives including Meet the Buyer, Learning Journeys and supplier development programmes as well as exhibitions to introduce producers to prospective customers.
Successes from the programme which began in 2009 include Forres-based Macleans Highland Bakery, which secured a national listing with Sainsbury's following recommendation from Access to Markets, and Simon Howie Foods from Perthshire, which has recently been listed with Brakes. Edinburgh food company Stoats has listed its products in 150 Waitrose stores nationally resulting from an introduction at a Meet the Buyer event.
Access to Markets benefits a wide range of food and drink businesses across the HIE area and the rest of Scotland. It offers a broad range of activities designed to provide relevant information, training and events and is available to any Scottish food and drink business with an aspiration to grow their sales in the UK.
HIE's senior development manager Iain Sutherland said: "The Access to Markets programme provides excellent opportunities for food and drink producers of all sizes. Sales opportunities are crucial to achieving the targets of individual operators in the food and drink industry and many firms lack the resources and the contacts to arrange face to face meetings with regional and national buyers. This programme is designed to help them develop and sustain lasting relationships and, through it, we are delighted to support food and drink companies connect with key customers."
Scotland Food & Drink Access to Markets project manager Stephanie Pritchard said: "We are delighted that Access to Markets has been granted funding for a further two years, allowing the programme to continue supporting Scottish food and drink businesses enter new markets, reach new customers and grow their sales in the UK. Over the last two years, we have introduced hundreds of food and drink producers to retail and foodservice buyers which has resulted in millions of pounds worth of incremental sales.
"As consumer demand for local products rises, so does the focus from food buyers. Through the programme, we've seen a breadth of businesses achieve listings locally, regionally and nationally – from small artisanal producers to some of the larger food and drink companies in Scotland.
"As Scotland grows its reputation as a Land of Food and Drink, the next stage of the programme will continue to open doors to UK retail and food service companies, identifying new commercial opportunities and help businesses to develop long-term trading relationships to achieve greater success."
Plans were recently announced for the opening of a new Dobbies Garden World in Inverness and the search is on for local products to excite its shoppers. A Meet the Buyer event will be held on September 12 in Inverness following an online application and buyer selection process. Companies are being invited to apply for a one-to-one session with the Dobbies buying team, which provides an excellent opportunity for producers to present their products.
Other upcoming events include Meet the Buyers with Amazon (September 25) and Asda (October 16) as well as the Scotland, Land of Food and Drink pavilions at exhibitions Speciality Good Food Show in London (September 8-10) and BBC Good Food Show (October 18-20).