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Chamber Matters: Future of Food and Drink

Fresh on the heels of Scotland’s 2015 Year of Food and Drink, William Calder of Scrabster Seafoods reflects on the prominence of the past year for our local food and drink industry and shares his thoughts for the future.

Thanks to its rural location and abundant natural resources, Caithness provides a plentiful supply of fresh produce. As a result, the county is home to a variety of thriving food and drink companies offering some fantastic products sourced and produced right here on our doorstep. Alongside traditional produce like beef and lamb, we’re witnessing a surge in new and exciting products crafted from lesser-known natural resources.

Whilst operating a food and drink company in Caithness is not without its challenges, these are compensated by the value global buyers place on the quality of produce we offer, both through the environment it’s sourced from and the local skill involved in the production process.

With long-established and ambitious new businesses alike flying the banner for Caithness in highly competitive markets, local companies are finding their produce in high demand. Reids of Caithness have achieved great success with their products featured in supermarkets nationally and internationally, and I was pleased recently to discover their biscuits on board the sleeper train to London. Similarly, Dunnet Bay Distillers have produced an excellent product which tastes unique and is brilliantly branded. They’re winning awards time and again for their flagship Rock Rose Gin and have just introduced their new Holy Grass Vodka. Both spirits feature local botanicals as their namesakes and key ingredients. It’s encouraging that where the will is strong and product is right it is possible to break through barriers in to these sought-after markets

My own company, Scrabster Seafoods, has been proudly exporting to multinational supermarkets for nearly 30 years. Demand for quality seafood landed locally at Scrabster is stronger than ever with buyers keen to import fresh, sustainable stock. We plan to expand in 2016, adding value to the superb shellfish landed here in Scrabster daily. We are now able to realistically ship worldwide within 48hrs, which is remarkable for our location.

For me our county’s producers have historically been guilty of underselling the great products on offer. Times are changing but it’s so important that we keep up the momentum. Entering 2016, it’s fundamental that our hotels, shops and restaurants, schools, college and local consumers all come together to champion the buy local, eat local ethos. As a community, we all know Caithness is proud of its produce. Vocal and viral support for local business has always been strong, but this must also be physical. We only need look across the water to Orkney to see how much of the produce on their menus is locally sourced. Every menu features Orkney beef, crab, beer - even buffalo.

Locally sourced produce is incomparable. You know where it comes from, who produced it and that you can be confident in its quality. When you can truly trace your meal from fleet or farm to fork on your own doorstep, what more could you want?