North east Scotland is home to a thriving and diverse drinks industry. Businesses large and small produce everything from whisky, gin, rum and absinthe to beer, cider, non-alcoholic drinks and water.
“Drinks now account for almost a quarter of the region’s food and drink industry £2.2 billion turnover and drinks businesses are prominent participants in our business growth, market development, leadership and food tourism programmes,” explained Peter Cook, director of food, drink and agriculture at Opportunity North East.
“The sector is busy and very innovative – in its products, in processes, in marketing. Consumer tastes are constantly evolving so, in partnership with Scotland Food & Drink, ONE will be working with businesses to use insights and foresight to identify the opportunities and then create premium, on-trend products. And provide market development support to get these to consumers in high-value markets.
“We are also focusing on net-zero resource efficiency and low-carbon production – retailers and consumers now expect it. Sustainability demands lots of innovation – in production processes, packaging and distribution – and will deliver environmental and commercial benefits,” said Peter.
Market development, innovation and sustainability are key issues for businesses across the sector.
Raven Spirits, founded by brothers Callum and Peter Sim in 2018, produces the Hrafn premium Scottish gins, distilled on Deeside.
“We started exporting in our first year and more than 70% of our sales have been international. We now aim to increase our presence in the UK, targeting premium retail. We are in the process of securing Salsa accreditation to support that,” explained Callum.
Innovation is vital in the busy gin category. Time put into new product development saw two new gins launch this summer – Valkyrie, a lighter gin, and Cranachan, a raspberry gin.
“The latest Hrafn gins remain authentic to the brand with natural flavours and locally sourced ingredients. The fruit is from Barra Berries, the oats come from Alford, and the heather honey is local. Consumers are more interested in buying local and sustainability than before,” said Callum.
Established in 2009 and the oldest bartender-owned brand in the UK, The House of Botanicals in Aberdeen is home to a portfolio of botanical spirits, including its Old Tom Gins, the Dr Adam's Cocktail Bitters, and the Italian influenced Pietro Nicola range of liqueurs, Amari and fortified wine. Run by Adam and Steffie Elan-Elmegirab, it operates with a zero-waste ethos and ethically sources its raw materials.
"The on-trade was the original focus for our range. The pause created by the pandemic gave us time to think, focus and rebalance what we do in terms of trade, retail and direct sales. Our products are in bars worldwide, and we are now looking at major retail as another channel," explained Adam.
"We are exploring securing a venue in Aberdeen because people are looking for new, high-quality drinks experiences that combine products with knowledge and insights. Customers are also interested in the bar tools and accessories we use, which made us think about the range of products we sell online. It has been fascinating to connect with a different demographic and adjust our marketing to suit new audiences."
Non-alcoholic drinks are one of the fastest growing market segments in the UK.
Raw Culture, co-founded by Chris Geary and Ashley Keenon in 2020, is on-trend for the growing health and wellness sector and consumers’ desire for non-alcoholic drinks. They launched their first hop-infused craft kombucha – a sparkling tea based soft drink – at the end of July and have five further flavours in the pipeline. The UK kombucha market is forecast to reach £126 million by 2025. Raw Culture is one of only six producers in Scotland.
“We took the time to make the best product we can. We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive feedback since we launched and have been sending out direct sales as far as London. The next steps are ramping up our marketing campaign and scaling production to get the full range out to consumers,” explained Chris.
“Our kombucha is naturally low in sugar and full of probiotics, antioxidants and vitamins. The timing is right for Raw Culture’s craft kombucha because people want rewarding, non-alcoholic drinking experiences, and consumers are more health-conscious than ever, wanting to reduce sugar intake and are keen to support local,” said Ashley.
Drinks businesses including City of Aberdeen Distillery, House of Botanicals, Esker Spirits, Brew Toon, Burnside Brewery, Lost Loch Distillery and Six Degrees North are part of the region’s first Provenance Festival from 24 September to 3 October. Led by Opportunity North East, it enables people to discover food and drink at source and celebrates north east Scotland’s high quality, signature products. See the www.provenancefestival.co.uk website for details of events in your area.
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