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Food and drink businesses toast upskilling success through The Academy

John Davidson, Scotland Food & Drink, Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon and Kim Cameron, founder of The Gin Bothy

BUSINESS leaders from the food and drink industry were joined by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Mairi Gougeon MSP, to celebrate the Scottish businesses that have enrolled and graduated from Scotland Food & Drink’s ‘The Academy’.

The event, held at Bonnie & Wild in Edinburgh’s St. James Quarter, brought together food and drink producers from across Scotland to mark the first anniversary of delegates starting The Academy last May.

Since its launch, The Academy has supported around 100 businesses from early-stage artisan producers through to national Scottish brands and well-established manufacturers including The Orkney Creamery, Bon Accord, Hungry Squirrel, The Gin Bothy and Angus Soft Fruits. Over the two-year initiative, The Academy aims to support over 200 Scottish businesses.

The Academy was one of the first major investments from the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership’s Recovery Plan, supported by £10M funding from the Scottish Government, and is being delivered by Scotland Food & Drink and training experts Levercliff Associates.

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The three programmes – Seeding Growth, Accelerating Growth and Commercial Excellence – have been designed to support companies at various stages in their development and give them the commercial tools to develop new opportunities and compete successfully in Scottish and UK grocery and foodservice markets.

Specialist guest speakers from industry include market insight, technical and negotiation experts; professional service providers; and trade buyers from companies including Sodexo, Brakes, Scotmid, Mathew Clarke, and Cress co.

John Davidson, Deputy Chief Executive & Strategy Director at Scotland Food & Drink, said: “For the past couple of years many food and drink businesses have had to put their plans for growth on hold as they adapted to survive through an extremely turbulent time. And although the challenges do continue, it’s great to see so many businesses come together, share ideas and refocus on the growth opportunities.

“In Scotland we have an amazing community of food and drink businesses and The Academy is all about providing them with the tools and resources to accelerate sales and grow in key markets. By bringing in experts from across the commercial landscape we have ensured that the programmes are tailored to support businesses at whatever stage of their journey.”

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said:

“The last two years have been challenging with the Food and Drink industry being impacted disproportionately. It is imperative that we rebuild business confidence and support them in getting back on their growth path.

“I am pleased to see ‘The Academy’ playing a significant role in upskilling businesses with the knowledge and connections vital for expansion and growth.

“Congratulations to all those who have graduated so far and best of luck to those who are currently undergoing the programme.

“I would encourage other businesses, who haven’t yet availed of this opportunity, to make use of it.”

Kim Cameron, founder of The Gin Bothy, has recently completed the Seeding Growth programme. Kim said: “After a difficult couple of years I still had big plans to expand our business and wanted to focus on new opportunities to do that. The Academy course came along at the perfect time and has allowed me to think much more strategically about growth, cultivate and grow export opportunities and focus on plans to expand our distillery.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of something special for the Scottish food and drink industry.”

Applications for the next cohort of Seeding Growth, Accelerating Growth and Commercial Excellence are now open, to find out more or apply, please visit:

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