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Scottish food and drink businesses target growth through The Academy

Andy Murray, Founder of The Drinks Bakery

38 Scottish businesses are amongst the first cohort to sign up to The Academy, a new and unique training initiative to help food and drink businesses targeting growth, after the industry was one of the hardest hit by COVID-19 and Brexit.

Open to food and drink businesses of all sizes and ambition, The Academy, is a series of programmes being delivered by Scotland Food & Drink Partnership and training experts Levercliff Associates to support businesses sell themselves, build their brands, thrive and compete in highly competitive retail and foodservice markets.

The three training programmes – Seeding Growth, Accelerating Growth and Commercial Excellence – have been designed to support companies at various stages in their development. The Academy programmes are the first major investment from the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership’s £5m Recovery Plan which is supported by The Scottish Government. It will run for two and a half years and aims to support over 200 Scottish businesses.

18 businesses are kickstarting their growth journey by joining the Seeding Growth programme including Mimi’s Bakehouse, Five Kingdoms Brewery, Oban Fish Company and The Pakora Explorer. A further 20 businesses including Bon Accord Soft Drinks, Glaswegin, Mathiesons Bakery, Browns Food Group and The Drinks Bakery are upskilling on Accelerating Growth.

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Seeding Growth, which started in May and will run for twelve weeks, is aimed at companies whose primary focus is maximising their local markets and beginning to consider opportunities in the broader Scottish marketplace.

Sheetal Revis, Director at The Pakora Explorer said: “The last year has challenged the business to the point of thinking, this is it, what will we do now? However, from challenges comes opportunity and the need to think outside the box. If we have to look for a positive from COVID, we may never have moved into producing a line for retail / food service. We have had to significantly adapt our business plan to keep serving our customers and it’s been and still is tough, but there is hope and positivity. Customers are reacting well to the decision that we made!

“Being part of The Academy will help me to gain that valuable industry insight that will help my business to grow further. I’ve really missed networking events and the chance to speak to people, The Academy will help with some of that. I’m really excited to learn from other businesses that are in a similar stage as ours, but in particular to help develop our strategy for success.

“I really think it will help to grow my business because of the team who are behind it. All that industry knowledge, experience and connections, we can only do well from a programme such as this and more importantly, the team behind The Academy want us to succeed”

The Accelerating Growth course is aimed at established businesses already supplying large customers in Scotland and looking to advance in the wider UK market, and will start this month (June)and run for six months.

Andy Murray, Founder at The Drinks Bakery, said: “This last year has been a huge challenge for The Drinks Bakery as much of the hard work and momentum built up through 2019 came to an end and the large-scale contracts that we were so close to getting simply fell away. |

“That said, we still saw growth through 2020, just from different channels. Our D2C channel took off through Amazon and a hastily set up webshop as people wanted to spoil themselves at home. Plus our range started to fly off the shelves in the delis and farm shops around the UK as more people

shopped closer to home.

“The Drinks Bakery is now getting closer to partnering with the right sort of UK multiple retail and we’ve been exporting small amounts to Europe, UAE and North America over the last 2 years but things are about to get bigger.

“Being part of the Scotland Food & Drink Academy is exactly the support we need at this crucial stage of scaling.”

Lucy Husband, Market Development and Business Engagement Director at Scotland Food & Drink, said: “The Academy aims to bring a renewed sense of positivity and optimism for businesses when it comes to growing their brands. It is fantastic to see so many local food and drink businesses focus on their future and revisit their ambitions for growth after an extraordinarily difficult year.

“These programmes have a real focus on knowledge sharing, upskilling and innovating, and are fundamentally about helping businesses to deliver a real step-change for long term growth. Change that is rooted in the here and now in the commercial realities of the world we live in, but with an eye to the future.

“Whilst we don’t know what the future might hold, food and drink will undoubtably continue to be a key export and economic contributor for Scotland and we are thrilled to be able to support businesses grow their brand to compete in local, UK and international markets.”

Applications are now open for future cohorts of The Academy. The deadline for applications for cohort two of Seeding Growth which starts in September is Sunday 13 June, however applications will continuously remain open for future cohorts. The first cohort of Commercial Excellence will start later this year. 

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