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Argyll food producers show appetite for growth

Emma Goudie (founder of Islay Cocoa LR)

INDEPENDENT food producers in Argyll are eyeing expansion following the success of the region’s first ever food festival, with plans to make it an annual event.

Food for Argyll, a group of more than 30 producers, is planning a permanent annual Argyll Food Festival in Oban to cash-in on the success of the sector.

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The event, held in Corran Halls, Oban in the last weekend of September, saw the largest attendance of any event hosted at the venue. Attendees enjoyed live music, workshops, and a diverse range of local food and drink products.

To consolidate their success, six local companies have established a collective presence in Foodies, a new outlet for specialist and artisan manufacturers in Glasgow, where they have seen demand for their products soar – and more are set to follow.

Food For Argyll is dedicated to promoting local food from Argyll and helping its member producers thrive. It focuses on supporting local food and drink producers in the region, allowing them to collaborate and share their expertise. 

The collective launched, and now runs, the Food from Argyll Cafe at the pier in Oban, which hosted a Taste for Tourism conference in Oban in 2016, kick-starting a national movement to promote Food Tourism in Scotland.

As well as attending trade fairs and supplier events as a group, member companies run the catering at the Oban Mart and perform a range of tasks to support and promote the local food producing sector.

Now the group aims to spread the appeal of local producers further by securing a significant commercial space at Foodies, a community interest company at Buchanan Galleries, one of Glasgow’s busiest retail destinations.

Companies represented there include Islay Cocoa, Isle of Mull Seaweed, Slainte Sauces, based on the Isle of Lismore, Tighnabruaich-based Argyll Coffee, Annie’s Herb Kitchen, based in Lochgilphead and Tiree Tea.

Emma Goudie, owner of Islay Cocoa – which uses local ingredients including Islay sea salt, and raisins and sourdough from Jura in its range of artisan chocolates – said: “Everybody is delighted because, as small producers, accessibility to being in a big city like Glasgow, in a major shopping centre, would otherwise be beyond the reach of most of us.

“Our presence in the Foodies store has allowed us to tap into this huge retail market, and showcase our products to a much larger audience.

“Being in Glasgow is heavily linked to the Islay connection. Many people in Glasgow have connections to the islands, and this is a beneficial hub for promoting Argyll’s products.”

Foodies provides a high street presence for more than 60 independent producers of high quality, specialist, and artisan foods.

Traders include producers of coffee and specialist teas, honey, jams and chutneys, relishes and pickles, sauces, marinades, and glazes. It will also sell, biscuits, chocolate, oatcakes, soft drinks, herbs, spices, and seasonings. If successful, there are plans to open more Foodies stores across Scotland. 

The business is the brainchild of Lynzi Leroy, who is chief executive of the not-for-profit Scottish Design Exchange (SDX), which features the work of hundreds of artists and designers at its three stores in Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as through its online store.

She said: “The Argyll-based producers who sell their products at Foodies are a great example of the power of collective action.

“By coming together and showcasing the amazing richness and diversity of food products now being produced in the region, they have opened it up to a much wider audience.

“We are thrilled to play our part in this success story, and we hope to do the same for groups of producers in other areas across Scotland.” 

Food for Argyll was launched in 2007 to provide food for the first Connect festival in Inveraray. 

At that time, it had only half a dozen members and activities mainly focused on events – it was at the forefront of a movement to provide better quality food at large events, including concerts, sporting fixtures and at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

According to founder Virginia Sumsion, the group has always been member-led and has succeeded because of their passion for the food they produce.

She said: “A lot of our members are comparatively small producers and they benefit from advice and support. 

Producers in the food and drink industry, regardless of their specific niche, find strength in unity as they face common challenges and isolation. 

“Their collaborative efforts have led to significant growth, starting with promotional events and festivals, and expanding to offer various benefits to members. 

“Within the group, there is a diverse range of producers, from those who prefer staying regional and small-scale to others integrated into the national wholesale chain, showcasing the inclusivity and breadth of the community.”

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