Alan Clarke, chief executive of industry organisation Scottish Bakers, celebrates the news that food and drink exports from Scotland have grown to record levels
We live in uncertain times so to have achieved such strong export results is hugely encouraging.
The sector as a whole is diverse and demonstrates the huge global interest in the great food and drink that comes out of Scotland and we hope this will continue to grow despite the changes ahead.
While Scotch whisky remains a stalwart of this growth, food from Scotland, especially salmon, seafood and red meat, have performed exceptionally well.
As for bakery, we are seeing growth led by the fantastic success of Walkers Shortbread. Now many other bakers across Scotland have identified a range of bakery products – including shortbread, oatcakes, confectionery and desserts – with huge global export potential.
Scottish Bakers was part of the working party tasked to develop the export strategy for food and drink. As a direct result, we have invested £75,000 in partnership with Scottish Development International and other food and drink representative bodies in establishing a network of in-market specialists responsible for promoting Scottish food and drink all over the world.
We have created a Scottish Bakers Export Group, chaired by Martin Lightbody of Lightbody Ventures, which is taking a proactive approach to promoting the Scottish Bakers brand internationally. The purpose of this is to help individual companies to benefit from the collective experience of the group. This has already had an impact on the bakers involved and we are now moving to a new phase where we are working in partnership with Scottish Development International to engage a food and drink export consultant, who will work to ensure each of our members is fully export-ready.
The devaluation of sterling is already having an impact on exports, but this is not the only factor. Those companies that have taken the time to get their product range right,
to identify customers in their target markets, are now able to gain a competitive advantage.
It is imperative that the Scottish government and UK government work closely together to ensure we have a seamless transition to European and other international markets.
We cannot afford to rely on World Trade Organization tariffs as this could make the cost of our exports more expensive. The innovation that we are seeing from bakers in Scotland is a real credit to the sector.