Private sector economic development body Opportunity North East (ONE)has launched its search for the next group of ambitious food and drink companies from North East Scotland to join its sector-specific business growth programme.
The programme, supported by Aberdeenshire Council, aims to catalyse growth in the sector by equipping businesses with the skills and knowledge to accelerate their development through the creation of new products, entering new markets and securing new retail and food service listings to increase turnover and create new jobs.
It is designed specifically for owners and managers of small food and drink businesses with growth potential, as well as future leaders from larger, family-owned businesses. There are 15 places available on the programme and applications are currently being sought from participants with ambitions to elevate their business to a wider national and international market, building on Scotland’s established global reputation for quality food and drink products.
The modular, five-month 2018 programme, which starts in March, includes a combination of group workshops, business speaker sessions, practical exercises and best practice visits. Each delegate will also be supported by an experienced business coach, to help build their growth plan and get the maximum benefit from their participation. The series of 10 one-day sessions will include; six workshops, three one-to-one coaching sessions and one full-day best practice visit to an exemplar food and drink business.
ONE launched an 11-month pilot programme in 2017, funded in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council and supported by Aberdeen City Council, which was successfully completed in November by 20 participants.
Patrick Machray, Chair of ONE’s Food, Drink & Agriculture Board, said: “Achieving growth in our food, drink and agriculture sector is fundamental to the future economic prosperity of the region. It is our second largest industry sector after oil and gas with 22,000 people employed. Growth in its productivity, turnover, employment and value of jobs are key to creating a diversified and more resilient economic base.
“ONE and its partners are committed to supporting ambitious food and drink businesses to realise their full potential. Last year’s pilot business growth programme gave participating businesses direct insights on how to take their business to the next level through practical, collaborative workshops and access to real buyers and markets. As a result, participants attributed an increase in turnover of more than £150,000 during the period of the programme alone, and plan subsequent investment in product development, new employees, premises and equipment as they scale up production.
“For 2018, we have taken learnings from the pilot and developed a shorter programme, combining practical and strategic elements, to help companies define and implement growth plans. We will also ensure that we maintain long-term relationships with these high-growth potential businesses to support them in pursuit of the wider regional economic renaissance.”
North East Scotland has an excellent base for growth in food, drink, agriculture and seafood with its wide range of primary produce, sustainable production systems, new businesses, big name brands, international connections and a fifth of Scottish food and drink sector employment already anchored in the region. As a significant part of North East Scotland’s economy, further market growth and product innovation are priorities for both ONE and Aberdeenshire Council.
Chairman of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, Peter Argyle, said: “Some notable successes were delivered through the pilot business growth programme last year, so this is a great chance for another cohort to take advantage of what’s on offer and we’re pleased to be working in partnership with Opportunity North East again.
“This area has always been a producer of high quality food and drink and there are many ambitious businesses who could benefit from the extra skills and knowledge available to help them increase growth in national and international markets.
“Local food and drink businesses are such an important part of our economy and the council has recognised this, making development of the sector one of the organisation’s priorities, as shown by our support for this programme.”
Applications for the programme can be made online here and should be submitted by 5pm on Monday 5 March 2018. Interested parties can contact Jane MacLeod, ONE Business Growth Manager.