Innovative and growing food and drink businesses from across the North East of Scotland have had their achievements recognised at the region’s prestigious annual food and drink awards.
The 2019 North East Scotland Food & Drink Awards included 13 different categories spanning the breadth of the industry. Internationalisation, innovation and capitalising on links between the food, drink and tourism industry are recognised drivers for long-term sector growth and this was reflected in a high number of entries in categories including; Export Business of the Year, Best Food & Drink Tourism Experience and the Innovation Award.
The winners were announced last night at the awards ceremony at Ardoe House Hotel, Aberdeen. Delivered in partnership by Opportunity North East (ONE) and Aberdeenshire Council, 250 attended the event, which welcomed former BBC journalist, author and nutritionist Amanda Hamilton, as host.
Winners of the 2019 awards include; Associated Seafoods Ltd, Brew Toon, Dean’s, Esker Spirits, Forest Farm – The Organic Dairy, Glen Garioch Distillery, John Ross Jr (Aberdeen) Ltd, Mackie’s of Scotland, Macphie Ltd, rora dairy and Summerhouse Drinks.
Two local companies were celebrating double wins on the night in the categories of Investing in Skills Development and Export Business of the Year for Associated Seafoods Ltd. and Most Successful Product from the 2018 Awards and Best Retail Product (small businesses) for rora dairy.
Associated Seafoods was established in 2012 and has experienced remarkable growth since then that has positioned the company as a major player in the Scottish smoked salmon sector and provided a significant boost to the local economy. Their product range includes premium Scottish smoked salmon and shellfish, exported to 25 countries in five different continents and a recent gap analysis across the business has seen an investment in full-time education and Modern Apprenticeship training for their workforce.
Jane Mackie founded rora dairy, based at Middleton of Rora Farm near Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, in 2017. Their range of healthy yogurt impressed the judges as an outstanding product with clear local provenance and an impressive number of customers. By listening to customer feedback and adjusting their proposition accordingly, rora exceeded their sales forecast and tackled the foodservice market early in their development. The company has a strong vision of where it is going.
Pat Machray OBE, Chairman of ONE’s Food, Drink & Agriculture Board, said: “ONE is working with businesses and partners to drive an ambitious growth agenda in the food and drink sector as part of the long-term economic vision for the regional economy. This includes supporting businesses to realise their growth potential, using market insights to bring new products forward, targeting premium, international markets, and using innovation and digital technology to increase productivity.
“Tonight’s awards recognise the achievements of businesses across the region’s food and drink sector and provide an important vehicle for businesses to get new products in front of influential buyers who participate in the judging. Entries were received for 69 new products this year, with 12 businesses entering for the first time, which is encouraging in terms of the potential for the sector to grow and we congratulate all of tonight’s winners and finalists for their efforts.”
North East Scotland has an excellent base for growth in food, drink, agriculture and seafood, with its wide range of primary produce, new businesses, big name brands and international connections. The food, drink and agriculture sector is a significant part of the region’s economy, directly employing more than 22,000 people. Excluding the whisky sector, it contributes an estimated 20% of Scotland’s food and drink industry output.
Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, Peter Argyle, said: “I’m pleased to be a part of these prestigious awards, and indeed the council is proud to be able to support them as a partner.
“It has been very exciting to see the increasing number of products finding their way overseas, as well as the excellent food and drink experiences increasingly being offered for visitors and the range of employment opportunities continually being created by this industry. It is so important to celebrate growth, innovation and success within what is one of our key sectors.
“We have an increasing number of excellent food and drink producers in our area and anything which helps highlight that and support this important area of the economy is worthwhile.”
The judging panel for this year’s awards included Alan Leslie, Buying Director, Aldi; Nikki Castley, Head of Buying, The Cress Co; Seumas Campbell, Customer Service Director, Serco NorthLink Ferries; and Lauren Henderson, Director, Lomond Fine Foods.
The Awards received sponsorship from a range of businesses from the North East and across Scotland, including; title sponsor ESS Support Services Worldwide, CMS, Dentons UK and Middle East LLP, Johnston Carmichael, Scotland Food & Drink, Skills Development Scotland and The Moray Council.