As part of Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight 2020, Ishbel Macleod takes a look at marketing in the Scottish F&B sector.

Food and drink is big business in Scotland – and is worth over £14bn to the economy each year. From the traditional whisky, shortbread and haggis to the day to day staples (including soup, farm produce and the ‘other Scottish national drink – Irn Bru), it’s a huge area of growth, with some of the best known food brands in the world hailing from Scotland.

But how did Scotland end up in this position, with world-renowned brands across all areas of food and drink? The answer is clear – fantastic products and great marketing.

Scottish food and drink worldwide

This is something that Jenny Emslie, Managing Director at Sunshine Communications, agrees with. Her agency has a strong focus on Scottish food and drinks clients, such as Border Biscuits, Macsween and Scotch Beef. She said: “Food and drink is a huge part of Scotland’s culture and it rightfully enjoys a stellar reputation worldwide. A big part of what we do for our clients is highlighting the quality and sustainability of Scotland’s larder, and with many of the farms still family owned, it’s easy to see just how much care and attention goes into the products that we promote. We interact with followers from countries all over the world who are interested in Scottish food, and it’s always rewarding to get that positive feedback!”

Jenny raises a good point about followers all over the world – food and drink is Scotland’s top export sector, with research from HMRC showing that this sector was worth £6.3bn in 2018. The research found that the top international export destinations for Scottish food were France, Ireland, USA, Spain and Italy.

Scottish food tourism

But there is more to the Scottish food and drink sector than marketing and shipping outside our borders – for some their first taste of ‘proper’ Scottish food is right here on our shores.

This is something that has been tackled recently in Food Tourism Scotland: a strategy board led by Scotland Food & Drink and the Scottish Tourism Alliance, with the aim to showcase Scottish food to those who visit our nation. With VisitScotland stats from 2017 showing that visitors spend around £995m on eating and drinking when they’re on holiday in Scotland with UK tourists accounting for £656m and overseas tourists accounting for £339m, it shows this is a great marketplace – and a fantastic marketing opportunity to then take Scottish produce to the world.

As part of this plan, which looks to increase food tourism in Scotland by £1bn by 2030, a national food tourism marketing framework is set to be created, with plans to have this launch by 2025.

The report states: “To achieve the vision of becoming a globally recognised food tourism destination, it is important to launch an inclusive national marketing framework. By providing relevant and exciting information about local food and drink and tourism in this way, we can all become ambassadors for the ingredients and the people behind our regional and national larders. It is critical that our food tourism offering is fully embedded in the efforts of VisitScotland and others to promote Scotland as a first-choice destination.

“We also recommend that the framework focuses on regional and national approaches to marketing and education around local food. In doing so, regional marketing efforts can dovetail with other existing initiatives of producers, providers and consumers. It’s also vital to note that, in addition to this national marketing framework, at a local level we encourage and motivate business to market their own businesses, share best practice and take full advantage of this increased focus on promoting Scotland’s food tourism experiences and assets.”

This provides a fantastic opportunity to Scottish food and drink brands to get their marketing message to a wider stage.

Food and drink within Scotland

With such a huge market globally, it’s no surprise that Scottish food and brands are also loved in the country itself.

Kantar’s Scottish Brand Footprint report tracks the brands bought by consumers most often – and the list of top 30 brands include well-known names such as drinks (Irn-Bru, Tennents and Famous Grouse), biscuits and cakes (Tunnocks, Border Biscuits and Patersons), dairy (Grahams the Family Dairy and Wiseman)  and butchers (Simon Howie Foods, Malcolm Allan and We Hae Meat).

Kantar’s recently released 2020 report saw Simon Howie Foods named the 4th fastest growing Scottish brand.

Clair Howison, Brand Director at Simon Howie Foods, said: “Simon Howie Foods as a business has always been based on a foundation of quality - of working hard to produce the best products we possibly can. As a small team it is easy to prioritise that above all else but over the last 5 years we have invested more and more in marketing as a crucial way to spread the word about who we are and what we stand for. Marketing campaigns that truly capture our spirit build brand awareness and encourage purchase that in turn allows us to produce more of the products we love for more and more customers every year.”

The report also saw Grahams the Family Dairy take over from Irn-Bru as ‘top’ Scottish brand.


So, what does this all mean? As Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight 2020 comes to a close, it is clear that marketers in the Scottish food and drink industry strongly have their fingers on the pulse. It is an area that is set to grow even more in the coming years, and we can’t wait to see what they do next.