Has Scotland’s battered food and drink reputation been put out with the trash?

by Chris Fairbairn

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

Historically derided for a proclivity for deep-fat-frying – does Scotland’s food and drink brand match its credentials?

Food and Drink PR image for a blog post on Scotland's deep-fried reputation

LONG pilloried for its fondness for beige and aversion to green, Scotland’s collective diet is a long way from being perfect.

As a result, it seems any cultural reference to the nation’s relationship with food and drink is more likely to be associated with deep fat frying, excessive alcohol intake and a severe lack of fruit and veg.

But there is a huge juxtaposition at play – for Scotland is also widely recognised as being among the most sought-after parts of the world for quality of food and drink produce.

The turning point

Top restaurateurs around the world clamour for Scottish shellfish, berries, cereals, meat and game.

Scotch whisky is famous the world over and its craft gin producers are making up for a lost time – and at the cutting edge of the current gin boom.

All of this means that Scotland’s food and drink sector is on track to become the largest single part of our economy by 2030 – worth £30bn and overtaking oil and gas and financial services in the process.

So, what has made the difference? Here are the thoughts of a number of Scotland’s food and drink insiders:

James Withers, Chief Executive, Scotland Food and Drink

Food and drink PR photograph of James Withers, Chief Executive at Scotland Food and Drink

Speaking in The Scotsman, James Withers of Scotland Food and Drink believes that our ‘deep fried’ reputation has been replaced by a growing global identity for world-class produce.

In the article, James cites the doubling of food exports in the last ten years and a 40% increase in UK sales of Scottish produce as reasons why we should be confident going forward.

He said: “Whether it is in the top bars in New York, luxury hotels in Dubai or Michelin star restaurants in London and Edinburgh, Scottish producers are making their mark.”

Alan Dickson, Executive Chef, Ten Hill Place

Food and drink PR photo of Alan Dickson, Executive Chef at Ten Hill Place

Rising star and former Hotel Chef of the Year, Alan believes chefs and restaurateurs have done a great job of celebrating local produce – adding value to the brand.

He said: “Scotland has, in recent years, made huge progress in gaining the recognition the country deserves as a thriving food industry both in terms of recognising the fantastic natural larder we have.

“Not only world-class seafood, beef and lamb but also a huge and varied amount of fresh fruit, herbs & vegetables. The restaurant trade is booming with more and more exciting new restaurants opening constantly across the country. Chefs and restaurateurs have worked really hard to gain the recognition that our great product deserves.”

Chris Lynch, General Manager, Nira Caledonia

Hotel PR photo of Chris Lynch, General Manager at Nira Caledonia

Chris Lynch, General Manager at Nira Caledonia has no doubt that the diversity of Scotland’s food and drink offering is something to be proud of.

He said: “Scotland has an absolute bounty of food producers and purveyors. Surely the fun is the “hunter-gatherer” within us all to seek out and try their wares to experience first-hand how good the independent and artisan larder of Scotland really is; smokehouses for fish and salmon, dairies for cheeses, milk and cream, bakeries and patisseries for a little indulgence and real bread, butchers and game dealers for exquisitely good meat, and fruit and vegetables – especially Scottish summer soft fruits – are a genuine delight.  Let us not forget (in moderation) the brewers and distillers of Scotland, chemistry and nature hand in hand very magical and hard to beat!

“As for the deep-fried Mars bar…  The epitome of Scottish humour and likely a bet that it couldn’t be done.”

Andy Gordon, General Manager, Bar Soba

Food and drink PR photograph of Andy Gordon, General Manager at Bar Soba

Bar Soba’s General Manager Andy Gordon believes that the increasing focus on catering to people with varied dietary requirements is something that will continue to propel the Scottish food and drink industry forward.

He said: “I think Scotland has moved way past the fried food era – I always see chefs looking for inspiration around the fresh markets to deliver “fresh” food for our guests.

“I personally specialise in eight different Asian cuisines and my inspiration comes from the street vendors in south-east Asia, where all sorts of ingredients are on show in the street.

“Society today, especially when it comes to food, is all about making our guests feel safe. Knowing they can come to a restaurant and not have to worry about their allergy is something I am personally very passionate about.  My food is all about making people smile – there really is no greater pleasure in life than seeing my guests loving and enjoying my food.”

Collective Responsibility

There is a collective responsibility on all of us to make sure this incredible industry reaches its potential in Scotland.

We should all endeavour where we can, and when we can afford, to eat, drink and celebrate Scottish natural produce.

Producers must tap into the stories behind their produce – the people, the landscapes, the tradition – to further inspire the public and get across the value that they bring to the table.

Chefs and restaurateurs should do all they can to maximise the bounty – and showcase Scotland’s unmatched larder through whichever mediums they can to reach the widest audience.

If we can do that, the next time we hear a cultural reference to Scotland’s relationship with food and drink, it may not be quite so scathing.

For more than 15 years we have worked with Scotland’s food and drink sector to grow its audience and tell its stories.

If you would like to know more about our range of food and drink PR services, from video and digital strategies through to media relations and crisis communications, get in touch with our team, on 0131 561 2244 or using the contact form below:

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Chris Fairbairn of Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

Chris Fairbairn

Chris Fairbairn is an Account Director with award-winning public relations agency Holyrood PR. He is part of an expert PR team delivering PR services to a wide range of clients from headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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