The fund is supporting 15 groups throughout Scotland, with each benefitting from investment from industry body Scotland Food & Drink and other local authorities.
Of the 15 regional groups, seven are based within the north-east, Highlands and Islands and Angus areas, and will be able to take advantage of part of the £250K which is being invested in the projects.
The fund will resource coordinator posts and will include match-funding from partners including local authorities, as well as the Scottish Government.
It also aims to create an active network of regional ambassadors who work in conjunction with local authorities to promote regional food and drink and tourism strategies.
Local food groups who have been selected include Isle of Bute’s Bute Kitchen, Arran’s Food Journey, Eat Drink Hebrides, Orkney Food & Drink, Taste of Shetland, North East Scotland Food & Drink Network and Appetite for Angus. The groups plan and deliver projects such as increasing consumption and supply of local produce; upskilling food and drink businesses; hosting events; improving digital developments and e-commerce with local companies and, crucially, developing food and drink tourism.
Eat Drink Hebrides
Supporting nearly 40 producers, cafes and restaurants from the Hebrides, with seafood shacks, farms, brewers, shellfish firms and toffee makers all featuring on the Eat Drink Hebrides website, the group looks to showcase what is best about the Atlantic larder and products grown locally.
Rob McKinnon, manager at Eat Drink Hebrides, said: “Island communities have a long reputation for self-reliance. Local food is continuing that tradition and extending a heritage that goes back through the generations – be that crofting or fishing.
“The new co-ordinator funding from Scotland Food & Drink is hugely important for Eat Drink Hebrides. We are thrilled not only with the financial clarity it gives our activities over the next twelve months, but it also helps overcome barriers to collaboration which is challenging given our geography on three different island groups.”
On the Isle of Bute, another group called Bute Kitchen is calling on the help of locals to continue to fly the flag for the area, with them being hailed as “local ambassadors” who can spread the word of the outstanding produce available.
The group is a collaboration of local food and drink producers, suppliers and hospitality businesses and aims to develop and promote their offering.
Sandra Reid, board secretary at Bute Kitchen, said: “Bute Kitchen launched just before the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown hit which had a big impact on local food and drink businesses. They need our support more than ever, and the funding from Scotland Food & Drink will be absolutely vital for us to recruit and resource a coordinator who can champion our local food and drink heroes to help their recovery and enable the island’s food and drink scene to flourish.
“Consumers supporting local food and drink businesses not only helps them but can be a catalyst for wider economic success. Locals can be ambassadors for local product and spread the word to visitors and off-island buyers, which benefits the whole community.”
Arran’s Food Journey
Arran’s Food Journey is the regional food group for the Isle of Arran. The group is supported by Scotland Food and Drink and the Ayrshire Economic Partnership and is in place to support and promote food and drink growers, producers, manufacturers, retailers and hospitality providers on the island.
Cameron Bruce, group coordinator at Arran’s Food Journey, says by spending money locally, the local economy can benefit, as can the environment.
He said: “Supporting local food and drink businesses is a key way in which people can help bring balance to their local community, economy and environment.
“Buying from local producers and supporting community land initiatives bring a sense of belonging, money spent locally will stay in the local economy benefitting the place you live. There are great environmental benefits including reducing food miles by sourcing food locally to where it is produced.
“With this new funding from Scotland Food & Drink to recruit and resource a coordinator, Arran’s food and drink scene can – and will – continue to flourish.”
Long term goal
Supporting regional food groups is a key pillar in Scotland Food & Drink’s UK Market Development ‘Home Advantage’ Strategy, which aims to achieve £17bn turnover from food and drink sales within the UK by 2030.
Fiona Richmond, head of regional food at Scotland Food & Drink, added: “Regional food groups like Orkney Food & Drink, Taste of Shetland and North East Scotland Food & Drink Network to name a few have a pivotal role to play in the successful growth and development of our country’s food, drink and food tourism sectors, especially in the recovery from Covid-19.
“With a combination of both long-established groups, those which are more recently formed, and some which are brand new, Scotland’s diverse mix of regional food groups all have energy, ambition and a commitment to championing their areas. With this new funding, our aim is to build a strong network of groups and give them the recognition and backing they deserve.”