Private sector economic development body Opportunity North East (One) has launched a growth programme for ambitious food and drink businesses across north-east Scotland, in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council.
The initiative aims to help businesses develop new products, new markets and new retail and food service listings to increase turnover and create new jobs.
The business growth programme is designed specifically for owners and managers of small food and drink businesses, as well as aspirational staff from larger companies. There are 20 places available on the inaugural programme and applications are currently being sought from potential participants with ambitions for growth.
One has recruited a business growth manager to its team in Aberdeen, who will oversee the project. Jane MacLeod has run her own consultancy since 2012, working for clients including Scottish Enterprise, Food Health Innovation Service, Rowett Institute and Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society. Prior to that, she spent 12 years as an account manager and business growth manager with Scottish Enterprise. She previously worked in the food sector for McIntosh of Dyce, Lawson of Dyce and Connors Seafoods, and holds a BSc in home economics, a CIM diploma in marketing and an MBA.
Peter Cook, One’s director of food, drink & agriculture, said: “Food and drink is a major industry sector in the region with enormous potential for growth. We are starting from a strong position. If we can encourage and give start-ups and smaller businesses the tools to fulfil their ambitions we can deliver increased turnover and new jobs as part of the region’s economic renaissance.
“Participating businesses will learn a lot from each other via peer group sharing and from the programme, which is highly practical and involves real businesses; real product testing; real buyers; real market insights; mentoring and access to our own food and drink network. At the end of the programme they will have a plan and know how to implement it to take their businesses to the next level,” said Mr Cook.
Councillor David Aitchison, chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s infrastructure services committee, said: “Food and drink is one of our targets for diversifying our economy, building on the commitments set out in our regional economic strategy, and this provides companies already operating in the region an opportunity to grow and develop. Aberdeenshire Council has been supporting the food and drink industry for many years and we believe there is huge potential in this sector.”
The modular, 11-month programme, which starts in January 2017, includes a combination of group workshops, business speaker sessions, practical exercises and visits. Each delegate will also be supported by an experienced business mentor, to help build their growth plan and get the maximum benefit from their participation. The series of 11 one-day workshops will include two full-day awareness visits to exemplar food and drink businesses. Delegates will also receive two follow-up sessions after the programme.