Ambitious growth is on the menu

Representatives from Dumfries and Galloway’s food and drink sector have announced an ambitious target to double the value of region’s industry to £2.5 billion by 2030. 

 

The target was revealed at Moffat Farmers’ Market as Dumfries and Galloway Council and regional industry organisation DG Food and Drink launched a business survey to inform a new regional food and drink strategy and action plan to support the £2.5 billion ambition.

 

Food and drink is already Dumfries and Galloway’s most valuable economic sector by a considerable distance, with an annual turnover of £1.29 billion, employing 13,700 people. 

 

The regional growth ambition aligns with the national food and drink strategy, ‘Ambition 2030’ which aims to double the value of Scotland’s industry over the next twelve years.  Spanning the full supply chain from field and sea to plate, the sector includes primary production, such as agriculture and fishing, through to small food producers, large scale food manufacturers and processors, farmers’ markets and food festivals, distributors, restaurants, cafes, visitor attractions, speciality retailers and a growing number of distilleries.

 

Launching the growth target, Archie Dryburgh, Chair of the Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee, said:

“Our Council has committed to deliver an ambitious regional Food and Drink Strategy to double the size of the industry over the next twelve years.  In order to do that we are inviting the full spectrum of the food and drink industry - from producer to end user - to tell us what their needs and their opportunities are so that our Council and our partners can help businesses across the region to realise their potential. 

 

“We are also looking within, at our own internal processes and policies to see how our Council, as a purchaser of food and drink, can work better with our local industry to open up trading opportunities.  This ambitious growth target shows that we mean business.  Growing our local food and drink economy is a critically important part of securing an ambitious and resilient economic future for our region.  Our Council has committed to support our region’s food and drink industry throughout the duration of this administration.  After all, if we are to unlock the economic potential of our region, we must start with our most valuable economic sector.”

 

Andrew Wood, Vice Chair of the Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee, said:

“Dumfries and Galloway is already one of Scotland’s most important food producing regions, with more than 40% of Scotland’s dairy and around 20% of the nation’s red meat produced here.  We also have a number of large manufacturers providing valuable jobs in communities like Kirkconnel, Stranraer, Lockerbie, Castle Douglas and Annan.  We have an exceptional artisan sector, a growing number of food tourism experiences and festivals, and a rich network of independently owned restaurants and cafes that all reflect the local food heritage of their own communities. 

 

“Our rural economy requires growth in the value of the sector, with value retailed much earlier in the supply chain so that producers see the benefit of their hard work.  At the same time our natural environment requires growth to be sustainable, and we have a number of excellent examples of sustainable food production systems in Dumfries and Galloway. 

 

“This new growth target is just the start of a programme of development support that we anticipate will broaden out to include the new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency and other public sector partners.  It is our role to create a culture of ambition and enable local business potential to be supported and opportunities fully realised.”      

 

The Dumfries and Galloway Food and Drink Strategy and Action Plan will be developed over the summer and will be informed by industry surveys followed up by a series of workshops and one to one consultations with businesses and industry organisations.  The surveys are open for three weeks and links to them can be found on www.dgfoodanddrink.org.  All food and drink related businesses and organisations in the region, from field and sea to plate, are encouraged to participate.

 

Launching the programme of industry research, Lorna Young of DG Food and Drink said:

“Food and drink is the engine of our region’s economy and now more than ever it is incumbent upon everyone involved to make sure the foundations of our industry are strong and that businesses have the capacity, support and resources in place to make the most of their opportunities for growth.

 

“It is clear that collaboration will play an important role in growing our region’s economy.  Perhaps more than any other region in Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway’s food and drink and tourism industries are very closely intertwined.  So we look forward to exploring how these two industries can work together to make the most of the rapid growth in the food tourism sector, as initiatives like the Stranraer Oyster Festival and Castle Douglas Food Town are already doing.  

 

“Doubling the value of our industry by 2030 is ambitious, particularly when it is already our largest economic sector, but it is certainly achievable and the time to do it is now.” 

 

Local producer Annanwater is one of many small food businesses that straddle the agriculture, food manufacturing and food tourism sectors.  Owner Sarah Burchell farms home bred hogget and mutton with her husband Steve, which is then sold direct at farmers markets’ including Kirkcudbright and Edinburgh’s Castle Terrace.  Sarah is also Chair of Dumfries & Galloway Farmers’ and Community Markets Association and was one of the people behind the recent highly successful relocation of Dumfries Farmers’ Market to Dumfries Railway Station.

 

She welcomed the growth target and the plans for a more integrated approach to industry support, commenting:

“Our farmers’ markets demonstrate at a micro scale the impact that collaboration, mentoring and a supportive and ambitious culture can have on business growth.  The whole food and drink industry, from producer and grower through to chef and retailer, relies on supply chains and on collaboration with others.  I’m looking forward to our industry pulling together, to address challenges and identify opportunities to help us all reap the benefit.”

 

Russell Pearce, Chef Proprietor of Brodies of Moffat, has been a fan of Sarah’s produce since the restaurant opened in 2011, and he often includes her speciality hogget and lamb on seasonal menus. 

 

Russell, who runs Brodies with his wife Danyella, has made quality local produce a feature of his menus and he has long championed a holistic approach to industry development that supports growth of the hospitality sector alongside growth in production.  Russell said:

“Our region benefits from a number of excellent local restaurants owned and run by chefs who understand the importance of quality and of reflecting the natural larder of our region within menus.  The hospitality industry is a critically important part of the food and drink sector, particularly in servicing the needs of visitors to our region.

 

“For many visitors the menus in cafes, restaurants and hotels will leave a lasting impression of the quality of the tourism experience so it is vital that we get it right.  This initiative sounds like a step in the right direction and I’m looking forward to contributing to the research.”

 

Jackie Watt, Sales Director at Thomsons Foodservice, a locally owned food and drink wholesaler and distributor that supplies Russell and many other businesses, has welcomed the £2.5bn ambition.  Started by her father in the mid 90s in Thornhill, Jackie’s former profession as an Environmental Health Officer has stood her in good stead to grow the business.  Thomsons now covers the whole of Dumfries and Galloway, including delivering to remote rural villages which some national distributors refuse to cover. 

 

In recent years Jackie and husband Michael have relocated Thomsons to larger premises and business growth has been rapid, Jackie commented:

“We held our first ever trade show earlier this year and we were staggered by the support and the interest shown by businesses across the region.  We have committed to increasing our listing of local products and we are now working with both DG Food and Drink and Dumfries and Galloway Council to look at how we can help local businesses grow.  For example, we want to work with more small local producers to give them a route to market and we want to help local hospitality businesses grow their local food offering.

 

“Over the past four years we have doubled the turnover of our own business, so I know that the key to generating that level of sustained growth is to put in place strong foundations and to cultivate an ambitious mindset.  

 

“Our focus as a business has always been on quality of product and excellence of service, and I think those values are representative of our region’s industry as a whole.  We definitely have the potential to double our industry over the next ten years, we just need to go for it.”  

 

The two industry surveys can be found at:

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/DGFDSurvey

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/DGFDBarometer