North-East opportunities in food & drink and tourism 

Scotland is proud of its heritage and is globally recognised for its history, culture, and high-quality produce. It is a testament to the Scottish people and businesses that have upheld this reputation through their exports, stories, and experiences they provide for those visiting. In the past few years, particularly in Aberdeen and the North-East, there has been a greater focus on enhancing this reputation and investing in local businesses to grow its unique offering.

The region has suffered a shock over the last few years, with many people and businesses affected by the low oil price. However, there is a positive outlook with the £37 million overhaul of Aberdeen’s cultural ventures underway, which, it is hoped, will help boost both Tourism and the Food & Drink industry in the region. In addition, with organisations such as Elevator and Opportunity North-East, aiming to grow the North-East beyond Oil & Gas, there has been a shift in attitude towards Aberdeen; it is no longer just an energy hub.

A key opportunity positioned as key to developing the North-East is the predicted growth in the Food & Drink and Tourism sectors. After attending the AGCC’s ‘Responding to the Certainty of Uncertainty’ event at Thainstone House, and the ‘Re-Invigorating the North-East – Shaping the Future Economy: Food & Drink’ at Brodies LLP, it is clear to see that both Food & Drink and Tourism will be key to developing the North-East as a destination for culture, unique experiences, and premium Food & Drink.

Chief Executive of Visit Scotland, Malcom Roughead OBE, spoke of the growing importance of experience-led Tourism, such as touring routes and ‘packaged’ destination experiences. With so many experiences on offer from the North-East, it is important to market these effectively, taking into consideration consumer behaviours. With 1000’s of ads facing consumers every day, it is a noisy market and the majority of this has migrated online. 65% of bookings are now made online, and while five years ago the majority of this would have been from desktop, 60% of destination information searches now come from mobile devices.

Taking into consideration new technologies and the switch to mobile, Tourism marketing has adapted in many ways, for example with online influencers. Consumers trust real people and influencers have the power to drive conversations and engagement, deliver authentic content, supercharge SEO, and become brand advocates. To create a positive narrative about the North-East, it is important for both locals and visitors to share their stories and experiences.

One of the key areas of the North-East’s narrative as a captivating and unique place to visit, is its Food & Drink offering. This week’s event on shaping the future of the North-East’s Food & Drink sector highlighted some of the challenges and opportunities that we are facing. Scotland Food & Drink’s 2030 strategy forecasts that the turnover in farming, fishing, and Food & Drink will double and hit £30 billion. This is thanks to the accelerated growth delivered by industry ambition and investment, collaboration, political will, streamlined and effective support, and the skill of the workforce.

With this in mind, there is a need to support both existing big businesses that have already had an impact on the Scottish Food & Drink market, such as Mackie’s of Scotland and Thistle Seafoods, while nurturing and accelerating the smaller start-ups. The challenge is regulation of standards for businesses to keep producing to a high standard and to execute innovation ideas well, so that the Scottish narrative of provenance and quality is protected.

Food Tourism plays a key role in the revival of Aberdeen, with an aim to have more people visit the North-East enthused by Food & Drink, and to experience the local food and restaurants. Food & Drink Tourism expands further than distillery tours. There are numerous opportunities to see how quality food products are made, from dairy farming to shortbread, as well as in new innovations.

It is obvious that the North-East has a wealth of opportunities to attract people to the area and make it a destination of choice for tourists, particularly within the Food & Drink sector. It is how we support these industries and create high quality products, packages, and a narrative that can then be marketed effectively by taking into consideration new consumer trends.

If you would like to find out more about our work within Food & Drink and Tourism, and learn how to market effectively in these sectors, get in touch.