Only in its third year, Tesco’s latest ’Enjoy the Taste of Scotland’ has already become the biggest Scotland-only food and drink show in the UK and probably the world, says its initiator and Tesco’s senior buyer for Scotland, Sarah Mackie.
Previously staged in Edin-burgh, this year’s event took place in George Square in the heart of Glasgow. According to Mackie, the show provides "a platform for suppliers to shout about their products" and a reason for journalists to head to Scotland to hear their latest news. And with the event open to the public, "to get direct feedback from customers is a real bonus", she adds.
Taste of Scotland is a highly visible manifestation of Tesco’s support for Scottish companies and Scottish jobs, claims the supermarket, and it enhances the multiple’s image north of the border. It also represents an opportunity to "encourage our customers to get to know the locals" and to help them gain a better understanding of the provenance of their goods, explained Tesco’s chairman David Reid, when visiting the show on the first day. In retail value terms, Tesco buys more than £2 billion worth of produce annually from Scottish suppliers and there is an increasing expectation among Scotland’s consumers that it will offer even more local food in the future, he acknowledged. In this context, many of this year’s exhibitors took the opportunity to organise product tastings.
In addition, the event attracts a range of buyers and enables suppliers to network face-to-face with each other, leading to mutually beneficial inter-trading. "That, I think, is a real success story," ventures Mackie.
Some of the companies attending the Glasgow show have been supplying Tesco for many years or even decades. By way of example, she notes that J G Ross Bakers of Inverurie has been listed in some of the retailer’s regional stores for more than 30 years. Other firms, such as Lanark-based Border Biscuits, began by supplying Tesco stores in Scotland, but have subsequently secured a national listing.
From Tesco’s perspective, the success of Taste of Scotland is not measured in terms of additional sales generation. Far more important, Mackie suggests, is its value in building rapport. Tesco is keen to develop long-term relationships with suppliers and events such as Taste of Scotland help to strengthen these links, she explains.
However, she also emphasises the scope for new suppliers to join the Tesco fold: the recent acquisition of stores on the islands of Orkney, Shetland and Lewis "will inevitably lead to new suppliers coming along". Such companies qualify to participate in Taste of Scotland, which is open to all of Tesco’s Scottish suppliers, Mackie points out, adding that Kingdom Bakery of Fife and Island Bakery Organics from the Isle of Mull were among the companies making their debut this year.
Scotland’s deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon congratulated Tesco on "providing the opportunity for a wide range of Scottish suppliers to showcase their products", adding that the Scottish government was "absolutely committed to doing whatever it can to boost the profile of Scottish products for economic, environmental and health reasons".