With a rather daunting 27,000 jobs to fill by 2022 to fulfil its ambition of growing the industry and doubling its value to £30bn by 2030, it makes sense for Scotland Food & Drink to turn its attention to the younger generation - and, in what I reckon was a stroke of brilliance, to hold the launch of its annual celebration fortnight (Sept 2-16) in a funky underground cafe in the heart of Glasgow city centre that features the ongoing restoration of three iconic Banksy murals.
This departure from tradition signalled that the industry, which is headquartered in Edinburgh, is now looking not only to millennials but also to Gen Z and beyond to innovate, modernise and grow into the future. The cafe du moment was Thomson’s Coffee Roasters, a 175-year old Scottish company that has recently taken over the soaring red-brick space formerly occupied by the The Arches experimental theatre company underneath Glasgow Central Station. Thus it’s a prime example of how younger generations can attract new kudos to a long-established business by building on tradition.
My own long experience as a "seasoned" journalist covering the Scottish food and drink industry has shown time and again that it is already awash with astonishingly talented young people, be they chefs, third-generation fishers, farmers and producers joining the family business, or enthusiastic entrepreneurs with no previous experience. Indeed, I’d even go so far as to say they are the reason I’m so into the scene they inhabit. They are helping shake off what I’ve dubbed the “culinary cringe” (coined from the cultural cringe identified by Carol Craig in her 2012 book, The Scots’ Crisis of Confidence) that has dogged us for too long.
But a further push to encourage yet more to become part of Scotland's hugely successful food and drink industry, and so ensure its continued growth, is undeniably necessary. The guest panel at today’s Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight launch seemed pretty inspirational to me, the assembled group of media and industry in attendance – and to Fergus Ewing, cabinet secretary for rural economy, and James Withers, chief executive at Scotland Food & Drink, who stood alongside them.
Patrick MacHugh, 26, swapped a life on the international badminton circuit to launch Power Press Coffee, a Glasgow-based e-commerce business offering a range of “performance coffee” products for pre-workouts at the gym or to kickstart the working day. With health and fitness paramount a key issue for government and the general population, he wants to show that caffeine can be use to enhance natural performance - and encourage more young people into his industry. Ellie Sinclair, 23, of Aberdeenshire, has founded the environmentally-friendly VegCo, which makes sauces and spice mix pots from tomatoes and chillies grown in her greenhouse heated by power from the onsite anaerobic digester of her family’s agricultural contracting and waste haulage business. She’s now looking at expansion. Rory Campbell, 27, started out on his father’s fishing boat at Portpatrick in Dumfries & Galloway before deciding to become a chef at the family restaurant in the town and learning his trade in Manhattan and New York. Jennifer Macdonald, 31, runs her own farm and has recently launched her own community interest company Woodside Arran through which she sells her fresh produce, meat and eggs throughout the island. She said that more education about the true cost of food is vital, and that discouraging people from believing food should be cheap, and that paying £5 for two chickens in Tesco at midnight is sustainable.
So, has our ancient and modern food culture got a future? James Withers said: “The best days of food and drink in Scotland are yet to come.” On today's evidence, he could just be right.
[Photo, L-R: Ellie Sinclair of VegCo; Patrick McHugh of Power Press Coffee; James Wither, CEO at Scotland Food & Drink; Fergus Ewing, Cab Sec for Rural Econony; Jenny MacDonald, founder of Woodside Arran; and fisherman-turned-chef Rory Campbell of Portpatrick. Photographed on August 28, 2018, at Thomson's Central Cafe Bar underneath Glasgow Central.]