Scotland Food & Drink AGM
Scotland Food and Drink AGM and Annual Conference of 2016 bestowed an amalgam of acknowledgements, predictions (both optimistic and cautionary) and exciting prospects looking into the future. With 2015 being Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, the visions for the future are seemingly greater and more hopeful than ever with unmistakeable opportunities for further growth. Focus was on the key drivers currently shaping the future of Scotland’s food and drink industry, specifically envisioning and forecasting for the years leading up to 2030.
The day started with a hearty welcome by Stephen Jardine and Alastair Christmas, the Regional Director of Clydesdale Banks. Following was a strong focus on future industry trends and consumer trends specifically focusing on key areas such as health and technology, and strategies to ensure Scotland’s food and drink industry continues to thrive moving forward.
Currently there is one main issue having outstanding impact on the food and drink industry: Health. This issue causes both opportunities and challenges and several guest speakers voiced opinions on the matter. Robert Graham, Managing Director of Graham’s The Family Diary stated that it is a key consumer driver that they have responded to with the highly popular product Quark- a type of low-fat curd cheese. Graham went on to state that a future focus of the company will be on NPD, hopefully opening further avenues to healthy alternatives and variations. Duncan Gibson, Managing Director of Brakes- the leading food wholesalers in the UK, said that Brakes endeavours to educate consumers on making better decisions for a healthy, balanced diet. Graham Box, Managing Director of Sodexo, echoed these views sharing that Sodexo aims to decrease protein volume and increase plant volume in their food production. It is a commonly shared view that healthy food comes at considerably higher cost and motives to achieve affordable prices for healthy food were expressed.
In recent weeks, Scotland’s food and drink industry has been directly affected by endeavours to make the overall population healthier. The recent sugar tax announcement, will undoubtedly impact food and drink manufacturers immensely. The emphasis on health and the transitions from voiced concerns to activated plans has both positive and negative implications. For food and drink manufacturers, the extra measures needed to be taken in manufacturing operations demanded through sugar tax, and the likelihood of similar legislations being passed in future have provoked a negative response. This is supported by reports that the sugar tax has pushed some drink manufacturers of the industry to the consideration of legal action.
A reoccurring issue brought to attention was Scotland’s current lack of production facilities, and with scientists’ prediction of population increasing by 1.2 billion and that food production is to be increased by fifty percent by 2030, calls for concern. Craig Anderson, Managing director of the Scottish Salmon Company, stated that one of the main challenges for the next years is to keep up with the accelerating demand. With the pressure to use produce local to Scotland, Gibson stated that Brakes is unable to source their chicken from Scotland, due to the lack of production facilities and expressed how hugely supportive and keen he is to change this. The government, the public sector, and private sectors are supportive of growth and therefore plans to further build the Scottish brand by investing in more production facilities to service the demand in coming years is probable.
Technology has had phenomenal impact on the industry’s past and continues to inspire and stimulate trends often in an unpredictable fashion. Technology increases competition as fast as opportunities and forward thinking strategies are vital for fruitful growth. An example of a technology driven trend can be found in the burgeoning hype of personalised apps such as ‘My Fitness Pal’ which allows consumers to log daily food and drink consummation and further enables the tracing of products by a simple barcode scan. Traceability is a key issue in the industry and there is a lot of mistrust amongst consumers due to previous happenings, namely the 2013 horse meat scandal.
Apps such as this that provide consumers with insight and detailed information of the products put extra pressure on organisations within the food industry. Instagram, an app where the second most popular shared photos are that of food was something unimaginable a few years ago and once again highlights the unpredictability and impact that technology has on the industry. Technology impacts the channel dynamics and provides abundant opportunity for shoppers to obtain information, ultimately making them more powerful and meeting consumer expectations becomes increasingly complex. As a result it raises the question of who is really in charge: the shopper, or the retailer.
Ultimately, it is clear that Scotland’s Food and Drink Industry will continue to grow. In order to maximise growth it is fundamental to recognise opportunities, tackle challenges effectively, and to use factors such as technology as a tool to stimulate further success past the year 2030. Finally, the discussed industry growth and trends of both past and present, prophesise a bright future for the food and drink industry of Scotland.
Read Fiona Richmond of Scotland Food & Drink's roundup of 2015 right here