Picking winners: the report from our successful Food and Drink event

More than 120 people enjoyed the Scotsman’s fourth annual Food and Drink event on Tuesday, 8th September, held in the stunning National Galleries of Scotland.

Some of Scotland’s most successful food and drink businesses took part, from the iconic biscuit brand Tunnocks, formed in 1890, to Arbikie – a rural distillery set up only eight months ago and already winning major awards for its unique potato vodka.


The brunch was supplied by the masterful Carina and Victor Contini, whose Scottish Cafe offers the best in sustainable, Scottish produce. And the incomparable Stephen Jardine, founder of Taste Communications, Scotland’s only dedicated food and drink communications company, chaired the event with aplomb.

Thanks too to our partners, Bank of ScotlandAnderson Strathern and Year of Food and Drink 2015 and of course, all our fabulous speakers and delegates.

Scotland truly is the land of food and drink, and you can read all about it here.

Year of Food and Drink gives Scotland a taste of food tourism

Fiona Richmond, of Scotland Food and Drink, encourages food and drink and tourism professionals to come together in November to discuss how best to work together.

We’re now more than half way through Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, and so far it has been absolutely delicious. However, much as those of us who live here are enjoying the events surrounding the campaign and the opportunities to sample delicious local produce, the icing on the cake should be the visitors that all of this attracts.

Many food, tourism and leisure businesses have been enjoying a great season despite little help from the Scottish weather, and they will no doubt will have developed a taste for the custom that hungry, discerning food fans bring. The good news is that neither they nor the tourists need to go hungry in years to come either, thanks to a recently launched campaign.


Taste for Tourism is bringing together food and drink producers and tourism businesses at a summit which will formulate a plan to bring hundreds of thousands more tourists to Scotland by branding it as a food destination. Businesses and organisations have the opportunity to get on board this exciting project by attending the summit, and there is also a series of Flavour Tours – food tours intended for professionals which will illustrate some of the amazing potential for food tourism in the West of Scotland close to where the summit takes place.

Tickets are still available, and an early bird deal means they are £150, instead of the usual £165. The event takes place in Oban, Argyll, on the 3rd, 4th and 5th November. For more information and to book tickets for the event, visit the website www.tastefortourism.scot.

Fiona Richmond is Project Manager for Scotland Food and Drink, whose Chief Executive James Withers speaks at our conference on Tuesday, 8th September. There are still a few places left, book here.

Scotland’s favourite: Tunnock’s make two million biscuits a day

Bruce Reidford, of Tunnock’s, gives a taster of his presentation at the Scotsman’s food and drink conference in two weeks’ time.

ONE of Scotland’s iconic brands was born in 1890 as a wee corner shop bakery in Lorne Place, Uddingston. The current factory, not a stone’s throw from its origins, now produces almost two million biscuits a day.

At the end of the First World War, the son of the founder, on his return from the front, discovered his father had died and promised he would build upon the foundations he had laid.

By the end of the Second World War, the bakery employed over 40 people and was providing the west of Scotland with cakes and savouries via its fleet of red vans.

The early 50s saw the creation of the new “Daylight Bakery” and the introduction of the iconic Caramel Wafer and Tunnock’s Teacake, which featured so prominently in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and led to an upsurge in sales.


Today, Tunnock’s produces over 10 million biscuits a week, exporting to the four quarters of the globe and the same branch of the family retains control. Quality is our byword and the biscuits are still made to the original recipe, and are the same weight.

However, they are now made in a state-of-the art production facility – by a loyal workforce whose average length of service is over 22 years.

Bruce Reidford is Company Secretary at Tunnock’s and will speak at the Scotsman’s food and drink conference on Tuesday 8th September. Book your place here.

8 things that matter when picking the location for your food and drink business

Dawn Henderson, from Anderson Strathern, lists the eight most important things to consider when choosing the location for your business.

Any property expert will tell you the three most important characteristics a property should possess are: “location, location, location.”

The phrase dates back to 1926 (although Phil and Kirsty may disagree) and it is just as relevant now as it was then.

Concept, food quality, service, and price are extremely important, but rarely will those factors overcome a poor location. Correct site selection usually defines the success of a new venture.

We see food and drink outlets everywhere: traditional high street sites, freestanding units, shopping centres and within multi-use concepts such as petrol stations, airports and hotels, but finding the ideal pitch is frequently overlooked.


The temptation is to spend money working up the concept and designing the interior of a property still to be found.

Later on, when attention turns to location, funds are limited. The perfect site is unaffordable, and in the compromise site sales don’t reach the levels you need.

At that point, all you want is a good location, but by then it is usually too late.

So what makes the “right” location? How do you avoid a locational mistake before it happens?

  1. Patience is a virtue. You fall in love with a pitch and start visualising the trendy finishes. Visit other sites. Go at different times of day and week. Is it full to bursting during office hours, but dead at weekends and evenings?
  2. Visibility is paramount. Think free advertising. High footfall is crucial. Zero visibility means the place is doomed from the start.
  3. Success breeds success. Are nearby businesses doing well? What are they doing? Are they busy and when?
  4. Think tactically. Is your product competitive both in quality and price? What’s the demographic and population density of the neighbourhood? Is it as strong as its appears? Does that fit with the demographic?
  5. Accessibility. Customers will not walk far to get to you. Either provide parking, or opt for a site with good public transport links.
  6. Size matters. The smallest food outlet needs enough space for equipment and an admin area. These can quickly fill up with equipment and before you know it you’ve lost space for covers.
  7. Get a good lease. What if your venture failed and you were tied into a 5 or 10 year lease? The landlord could still demand rent and insist you perform lease conditions, even if you were not trading. It could be disastrous if you had personally guaranteed the lease. Consider a lease with frequent breaks, or a shorter lease with options to extend to give you leeway to establish yourself. Watch out for the repairing obligations. If the property is in a mess when you take it on, make sure you are not on the hook to hand it back in an improved state. Get a survey. Ask for a schedule of condition to limit your exposure to repairs. Do you need planning permission for your use or fit out? Think about issues such as servicing, deliveries and refuse. What about ventilation and extraction and the need for rights to a plant area (maybe over third party property?) What about licensing? How crucial is the sale of alcohol to your use? Will you be able to obtain a licence? Will you need to make any adjustments to your fit out or trading hours to accommodate the licence requirements?
  8. Avoid a tarnished site. Sometimes sites just don’t work. We’ve all seen it. It is often difficult to know why. But on a site you might see one failed venture after another. Soon the site becomes identified with poor food, slow service, high cost and poor value for money. The bad karma just sticks.

Location is priceless. But how to find the “right” location – your oasis in the desert?

The key messages are: do your homework. Don’t be impulsive. It is not just about timing being right. Being in the right place has never been more crucial to the success of food and drink outlets. Where you should be matters more than where you want to be.

To hear more about the importance of property, and other factors crucial to the success of a food and drink business, book your place now for the Scotsman’s annual food and drink event on Tuesday, 8 September.

Dawn Henderson is a Partner in the Commercial Real Estate department at Scottish law firm Anderson Strathern. She specialises in hospitality, food and drink and all aspects of commercial property.

Award-winning Arbikie spirits: Perfectly nurtured in the Angus countryside

Iain Stirling of Arbikie Highland Estate on the award-winning, super-premium spirits grown and distilled at the Arbikie Distillery in Angus.

From a very early age my brothers, David, John and I (see pic) have worked on our family farms in rural Angus. This made us aware of our responsibilities as ‘custodians of the land’, particularly as our family farmed as far back as 1660, as well as the need to protect and make our contribution to our farming inheritance.

Having spent many years travelling the world, and learning from others at a range of corporates, including Diageo, KPMG and Jim Beam Brands, we decided that the time was right to set up our own distillery and start producing high-end spirits using traditional Scotch whisky-making methods.

The result has been the creation of the Arbikie Distillery and the launch of Scotland’s first potato gin and vodka, – Arbikie Vodka and Arbikie ‘Kirsty’s Gin’.

 Arbikie brothers

Arbikie Vodka has already been voted ‘Best Vodka’ at the Paris ‘Cocktail Spirits’ awards and included in GQ Magazine’s ‘one of the World’s Best Vodkas’. We are keen to continue to innovate, to create new artisan products and to produce authentic spirits that are truly ‘farm to bottle’, as discerning consumers increasingly demand the full traceability of their spirits.

Provenance is becoming increasingly important and as we grow the potatoes, wheat and barley used to make our spirits, the creation of a single-estate distilling operation, which includes growing, distilling, maturing and bottling all on one site, helps to distinguish Arbikie from its competitors.

More importantly it allows our consumers to know what their spirits are made from, where the produce was grown, and how and where it was distilled. These are Important questions when the ‘localisation’ of food and drink is becoming increasingly important, and have helped secure our success so far.

Iain Stirling is speaking at the Scotsman Conferences food and drink event on 8 September. Book your place here.

Go here for more information on Arbikie spirits.

Chocolate heaven: From Grandtully to the world

Judy Collier, of Highland Chocolatier, on the award-winning, luxury chocolates made in the Highlands.

From his chocolate kitchen in Highland Perthshire, Iain Burnett Highland Chocolatier creates chocolates of an unparalleled quality for gourmet chefs and retailers. Clients include 5-star hotels, Michelin star restaurants and prestigious venues throughout the world.
chocs The launch of www.HighlandChocolatier.com shares the passion apparent to all those who have visited The Scottish Chocolate Centre, the award-winning tourist attraction next to his chocolate kitchen in Grandtully.

Iain Burnett Highland Chocolatier has become internationally recognized as a master truffle specialist. His outstanding chocolates have garnered the chocolate world’s highest accolades:  sweeping Gold, Silver and Bronze from The Academy of Chocolate; Triple Gold Stars in the national Great Taste Awards; and many Excellence Awards from Scotland Food and Drink.

As Commercial Director, I have built the brand over the past eight years, developing and progressing through difficult times of recession and coming through the other end, with an even stronger business. I look forward to telling that story at the conference on 8th September. Book your place at the Scotsman Conference on Scotland’s food and drink here.

Julie Collier Iain Burnett Highland Chocolatier

Time for Scotland’s food and drink producers to shine at home and abroad

Scotland’s food and drink sector is strong, writes Graham Blair, Area Director, SME Banking and Head of Food and Drink, Bank of Scotland

From producers of organic, regional fare to world renowned whisky manufacturers, Scottish food and drink firms of all sizes and sectors provide crucial support to both local communities and our wider economy.

Take productivity for example. Scotland’s food and drink manufacturing industry has successfully increased productivity by five percent since the recession, despite a broader decline in output in the majority of manufacturing sectors across the UK – see report here. The sector is also helping to create local jobs, and new initiatives.

Exports of food and drink (excluding whisky) have also bucked the negative trend in UK total exports by growing export levels in the sector by 50 percent over the last 10 years, see the Food and Drink Federation report here.

BofS logo

The strength of the industry is clear, but Scotland’s food and drink manufacturers are showing no sign of pausing for breath. Now more than half way through the Year of Food and Drink Scotland 2015, celebrations are in full swing across the country as food and drink firms look to showcase the very best of Scotland’s natural larder.

This year-long programme of events provides a rare chance to generate greater public awareness of the range and quality of Scottish produce with provenance, on a truly national scale. Scotland’s bustling tourism market will also allow this message to reach potential new international customers visiting the Land of Food and Drink.

Moreover, this spotlight on the industry is an excellent opportunity for firms to target fresh growth both in domestic and international markets. However, our own 2014 survey of Scottish food and drink manufacturers highlighted that just under half (49%) of firms in the sector were unable to invest in new international markets due to a lack of time and resources, while complexity of logistics and a lack of knowledge were also cited as causing barriers to exporting.

As a bank, our specialist manufacturing and agriculture teams have the sector insight to understand the specific needs of businesses operating in this unique industry and are on hand to provide on the ground support, whether it be through funding facilities or business guidance.

Bank of Scotland is proud to once again sponsor The Scotsman Food and Drink Conference as we continue to build on our strong connection with this vibrant industry. Our latest annual Food and Drink report, launching in the next few weeks, reflects our ongoing support for food and drink manufacturers throughout Scotland as they look to get the very best out of this crucial time.

To book your place at The Scotsman Food and Drink Conference on 8 September, go here.