A new joint initiative between VisitScotland and the Scottish Government could increase revenue for food and drink businesses by up to 20%.
This was claimed during the recent launch of the Taste Our Best food and drink scheme at Craigie’s Farm Deli and Café near Edinburgh.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead was joined by Riddell Graham of VisitScotland and key players in Scottish tourism’s food and drink sector including award-winning chef and Three Chimneys’ owner Shirley Spear and owners of the five star Dulaig B&B, Carol and Gordon Bulloch.
Funded by the Scottish Government (£450K over three years) and VisitScotland (£470K in kind) with support from Scotland Food and Drink, the Taste Our Best initiative brings together the tourism and food and drink industries.
It is designed to recognise businesses including hotels, restaurants, cafes, takeaways, visitor attractions and B&Bs that not only offer a quality food and drink experience, but include and promote Scottish produce on their menus to give consumers choice.
Research has shown that visitors are willing to pay up to 15% more for food that is of Scottish or regional origin and businesses that provide local food can typically enjoy higher level sales of up to 20% per year.
Visitors currently spend around £800 million per year on food and drink in Scotland and more than 70% of potential visitors to Scotland want to taste traditional dishes, regional specialities and fresh local produce.
The Taste Our Best scheme is the latest addition to VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance (QA) Schemes, which aim to drive up quality in tourism products across the country. Taste Our Best will provide businesses with an assessment of their food provision and their menu by qualified assessors, with those meeting the necessary criteria gaining the award.
For accommodation providers and visitor attractions, the assessment will take place at the same time as the main VisitScotland Quality Assurance grading, meaning that many tourism businesses that already participate in the QA Scheme will no longer have to apply and pay for a separate food and drink assessment.
Taste Our Best has been shaped to take account of consumer preferences and has been developed by representatives from the public and private sectors with particular experience in the tourism and food sectors. A pilot programme has been in operation and the main scheme will be rolled out to tourism businesses over the coming months.
Mr Lochhead said that Scotland’s food and drink is just one of a number of things that attract tourists to Scotland, and there is a wonderful story to tell about its provenance and journey.
“We produce top quality products from our array of amazing raw materials and the industry can capitalise by using this as a unique selling point to visitors from far and wide.”
The launch took place during the current two week celebration of Scotland’s food and drink and Mr Lochhead said that there is a strong sense of pride and support for all the fantastic work going on in the sector.
“It is an industry which already provides so much to the Scottish economy, but one that still has much more to give.
“And as we open our doors to the world in 2014 for Homecoming, the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup, it is the perfect time for the tourism sector to source locally and tell the great story of this Land of Food and Drink.”
Riddell Graham, Director of Partnerships at VisitScotland said:
“We know that visitors love authentic, quality Scottish food and drink and Taste Our Best is all about taking this knowledge to the next level and really encouraging the tourism industry to recognise the real benefits of sourcing, using and promoting local produce. We have such a rich natural larder here in Scotland with some of the best products in the world right on our doorstep.
“As Scotland prepares to welcome the world in 2014, there is no better time to launch this scheme to ensure the many visitors that come to our shores for Homecoming, the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup next year all leave with full, happy stomachs and memorable eating experiences!”
To support the project and to provide food and drink businesses with the information they need, Scotland Food and Drink have redeveloped their supplier and producer database and have produced a Seasonal Calendar, both of which will be launched as part of the scheme.
James Withers, Chief Executive of Scotland Food and Drink said:
“The Taste Our Best Food and Drink Scheme is a great initiative. Appropriately enough, its launch falls during this year’s Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight which highlights the quality of Scotland’s natural larder.
“Provenance is important to visitors and the producer Showcase and Seasonality Calendar will help businesses improve their food offering, strengthening their menus with premium Scottish produce. It is an important push to continue building Scotland’s reputation as a Land of Food and Drink ahead of an important year in 2014 when Scotland will be placed on a world stage and continuing this into the Year of Food & Drink in 2015.”
A private and public sector multi agency Project Steering Group was formed to shape the project with representation including British Hospitality Association, Scotland’s Best B&Bs, Scottish License Trade Association and the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions.
Taste Our Best will have a strong advisory element, including advice on best practice and signposting to producers and suppliers to encourage change.
Beppo Buchanan-Smith, Chair of the Taste Our Best Steering Group and owner of the Isle of Eriska Hotel said:
“Scotland is increasingly being seen as a land of food and drink and now more than ever our customers are asking about the source and provenence of our ingredients.
We hope the Taste our Best initiative encourages more businesses throughout Scotland to link up with Scottish producers to give the customers a truly authentic experience.”
Taste Our Best will replace the current EatScotland food and drink QA scheme which will be phased out. The new initiative builds on the strengths of the existing scheme and responds to consumer insights, in particular growing consumer demand and interest in sampling Scottish produce.