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Scots urged to explore the food and drink on their doorstep

By Calum MacLeod

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Daniel Milne
Daniel Milne

With Scotland's Food and Drink fortnight taking place in unusually challenging circumstances this year, tourism body VisitScotland is encouraging Scots to support the sector.

The national tourism organisation’s Only In Scotland campaign is hoping e-commerce can help producers get through the toughest year ever in the absence of the usual number of high-spending visitors this year.

Typically visitors spend around £995 million annually on eating and drinking, accounting for the largest share of tourist spend after accommodation and travel costs.

Jo Robinson of VisitScotland said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devasting impact on the tourism and events industry. However, our sector has shown great resilience to rise to the most challenging year we have ever had, and to adapt and innovate to new ways of reaching customers.

“Online sales and deliveries can provide opportunities in new markets, as well as added convenience for existing clients. Being able to buy products and goods all year round even when visitors are not on holiday is a great way to generate more income.”

Lucy Husband, market development and business engagement director at Scotland Food & Drink, said the impact of Covid-19 has changed the way we shop and forced many food and drink businesses to significantly adapt their approach.

“While more and more of us are shopping for food and drink online, the appetite for high-quality, local products remains strong," she added.

"In fact, our research shows that 70 per cent of Scottish consumers believe it’s important to have locally sourced produce available, and 49 per cent of Scottish shoppers also claim they would be willing to pay more for Scottish produce.

“We proudly launched our SupportLocal.scot directory during lockdown to meet that demand and provide a useful platform for businesses to reach new consumers. In this incredibly difficult time for so many people, food and drink producers have shown resilience in their ability to innovate and adapt. Scotland boasts some of the best food and drink products in the world, and we should all endeavour to support local producers and enjoy the fruits of Scotland’s larder.”

Many micro businesses have been experimenting with online orders and home delivery for the first time.

Isle20, created as an online marketplace for the Scottish islands, has seen such demand for food and drink products that founder Rhoda Meek has now set up the specialist isleEats website.

"The goal is to help businesses sell more by creating a central place for visitors to find food and buy local,” she explained.

Jo Vale, who owns Tiree Chocolates, has seen the benefits of selling through Rhona's websites.

"I'd previously mainly sold to visitors coming to Tiree but I now have customers across the UK who are keen to try island products," she said.

Whisky Hammer,a family-run whisky auction service based in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, has also found new customers online.

Co-founder and managing director Daniel Milne said:"Like most local businesses back in March, we were naturally apprehensive about how our operation would be impacted under the cloud of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our business is almost entirely based online, which has provided to be a significant advantage. This, alongside our ability to implement the required safety measures in our office for our small team to be able to continue to operate safely, and work from home if required, has allowed the operation to continue to run throughout lockdown.

“As the Covid situation began to unfold, we witnessed a natural shift of people's attention to be more focused on online sales, we have been greatly encouraged by the continued growth of our auction size, which has continued to grow during lockdown - an amazing achievement for us.

“The resolute confidence that the market has in Whisky Hammer will also allow us to develop our new business, Still Spirit. We will be launching both a physical shop in our new premises in Udny as well as an online shop. We are ready to launch this in the coming weeks, which we hope will be seen as a positive statement, as lockdown measures are eased, towards revitalising and re-awakening business in Aberdeenshire.”

For further information of VisitScotland’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, go to www.visitscotland.org/supporting-your-business/advice/coronavirus

Food and Drink fortnight runs until September 20.

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