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Transforming the region’s food and drink production

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Opportunity North East (One) is behind a string of initiatives to help the region capitalise on the economic potential of its food and drink sector.

Peter Cook, director of food, drink and agriculture, One, said: “The Seafood Transformation Project aims to grow our largest sector, SeedPod will provide facilities and support to deliver industry’s growth ambition, and an open doors festival will put the region’s food and drink on the national visitor map.

“Our membership of the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership and export partnerships allows us to draw on and influence national support.

“All of this gives businesses the skills, confidence and opportunities to grow, even in difficult times.”

One’s projects include a £21 million development “hub” – SeedPod – to help grow the region’s food and drink sector.

Peterhead-based craft beer firm Brew Toon, established in 2017, is typical of the ambitious younger businesses working with One and benefitting from business growth, market development, export and mentoring support and participation in regional and national meet the buyer programmes.

Brew Toon operations director Cameron Bowden said: “Covid dealt a big blow to brewing. Around 80% of our sales were on-trade, and that stopped overnight. So we had to put a lot of thought into what we would do and then adapt quickly.

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“Fortunately, we already had an excellent website that could support an e-commerce channel. We’d have struggled without that.

“The local market has also been incredibly supportive. I think people are more interested in where their food and drink comes from and choose to support businesses in their communities.”

He added: “Taking part in One’s business growth programme before the pandemic gave us many new connections, and sound advice from industry experts and the North East Scotland Food & Drink Awards raised the brand profile with buyers.

“We continue to develop our beers and offer to meet customer needs. We’ll be introducing a new canning line soon because consumers want 440ml cans. That’s a combination of larger servings and lighter, recyclable packaging, which focuses on sustainability.

‘Challenging time’

“Our on-site bar has gone to accommodate increased production, but we are opening a bottle shop and tasting room around the corner from the brewery next month.

“It’s been a challenging time, but we’ve adapted and grown the business, and we are building good momentum for the year ahead.”

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