MORE than 150 Scottish food and drink producers from across the country have attended the first day of the country’s largest global food and drink sales event.

Showcasing Scotland 2024, hosted in Edinburgh over three days, hopes to exceed an estimated £60 million in deals made in 2019 between Scottish food and drink businesses and international buyers.

At the Edinburgh International Convention Centre, dozens of Scottish sellers were available for 25-minute meetings with buyers from across 22 countries. Some were booked back-to-back for the whole of Wednesday with attendees praising the range of produce and opportunities.

In the morning, Scotland Food and Drink - who are hosting the event in partnership with several others including the Scottish Government – launched its new brand, Naturally Scottish, which will be mainly trade facing with scope to develop it into a consumer-facing brand for products.

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CEO of Scotland Food and Drink Iain Baxter  (above) said the brand specifics were still in development but the scope to move the organisation's historic trade perspective closer to consumers was doable as the brand intends to be “very flexible”.

He also highlighted the event's efficiency for vendors, telling press that businesses can do “three years [of networking] in two days”.

Baxter said: “It’s not a universally boom time [for business], but we are seeing a hell of a lot of emerging, new, forward-looking, developing businesses and we'll give them a bit more of a step up over the next few days.

“What I've seen in the last I would say, six months, is an awful lot of positivity in the industry - tempered with a bit of realism – let’s be honest, in the world today we've still got Ukraine and all these other things happening that impact the global market but we're hopefully winning more than we're losing.

READ MORE: Sustaining Scotland’s £16bn global food and drink sector

“I think we've got an incredibly diverse and well-representative group here, and it's pretty indicative, I think where the growth is going which is very far.”

When opening the event, First Minister Humza Yousaf told buyers and sellers that he was “sure” they would make “multi-million-pound deals over the next few days”.

He added: "We have a global regulation for quality, innovation and sustainability and not just for our world-famous whiskey, salmon and seafood - we have a brilliant bakery and meat products alongside delicious dairy and distilling.

"Every category of our incredible food and drink industry is represented at this year's Showcasing Scotland - farmers, fishers, crofters, food and drink producers from every area of Scotland are showcasing their products here at this world-class venue."The National:

Yousaf later met several sellers around the hall and tried produce from across Scotland.

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Scottish Development International (SDI), Scotland's trade and inward investment agency, aim to facilitate connections between businesses in Scotland and the wider international market, both broken into by Scots or to be explored.

Ewen Cameron, global head of trade for SDI, said one of the main challenges vendors face when developing deals is meeting demand in international markets, as well as having the confidence to commit and promote their product to the international stage.

“There's no shortage of demand out in the market”, Cameron said, adding: “But sometimes the challenge is having enough product to supply, whether that be beef, lamb or particular species of seafood, and that can vary year on year.

“No shortage of demand but we need to support more companies to have that knowledge and capability of how to export, so that we can have more confident exporters being able to take advantage of the opportunity – have the route to market established and that confidence to promote and commit.

“We aim to support the exporters as best we can and that's a collaborative effort between the Scotland Food and Drink partnership.”

READ MORE: Good Food Nation Plan aims to 'increase awareness' of Scottish produce

On the international attention on Scotland, Cameron said: “We’ve got buyers here from around 22 different markets. There’s always strong demand both from the Scottish suppliers that are here, and the buyers for the drinks category so I know there's a lot of Scottish suppliers here that are in whiskey or alcoholic drinks.

“We’ve got quite a number of buyers here from Asia, Europe, Middle East, and the US as well.”

One vendor echoed this. Outlaw Rum based in Huntly, Aberdeenshire said they were aiming to be selective in their negotiations to ensure the product remains a premium drink – and that is something that Asian markets are particularly interested in.

For example, anyone who buys a Lamborghini in Scotland receives a gift pack from Outlaw Rum upon purchase of the car.

Founder Jim Ashley said: “It's a premium brand so I’m positive about it going forward because a lot of Chinese and Hong Kong buyers, Taiwan, Dubai are interested. There are a lot of introductions over the next few days.

Ashley added: “We got started bottling just before Covid hit and we’ve just sort of been surviving but in the last I'd say nine months instead of us chasing them, we found that people are now starting to come to us, and that's from New Zealand and Scandinavia.

“There’s markets there that are very niche and very booming.”

READ MORE: Supporting Scottish micro-breweries has never been more important

Punjab Pakora, based in Ayr, said they are aiming to expand further around the UK after securing deals with key supermarkets in Scotland and introduce new products to vendors.

Mother and son team Vinita and Dhruv Duggal shared their aims for the event: “Over the past year we've been expanding to the UK, and we've now started supplying kind of discounters and more meal deal categories.

“So, really, the main focus of this event is to kind of now advertise the new kind of product offerings”.

The family-run business is currently in the process of building a factor in Ayr to expand production.

“We have a team of about 40 people and now we're building a new factory because of continued growth now. We’re selling close to more than a million units per year, so the aim is to get that up to two million in hopefully the next couple of years.

“We’ll be showing product to the likes of Morrison's and Co-op – and we're already in Sainsbury's. During Covid is when our ready meals picked up a lot and it was a great time for supermarkets to see the opportunity for that.”

Claire Fletcher from Jura was in the hall representing Lussa Gin and told The National that in 2019, she secured a US supplier and this time round; the Asian market was of interest.

“I've had two meetings this morning which are just fascinating, actually, to hear how it might work as export is about 20% of our business now.”

Fletchers shared that the business was “finding logistical difficulties” in delivering product due to the ferry disruption to the island. particularly with CalMac ferries.

She said: “We are losing visitors. We are losing our bottles manufactured and sent from France, and manufacturers are now refusing to ship. They’re asking us to pick up from Glasgow – but that extra cost is adding to our business costs – and it's a real It's a real issue.

“I’m now potentially looking at another supplier who might be willing to try and get to us, but we're a small, fragile business in the north end of Jura with a population of 250 people and, you know, the ferry mess is having a massive impact on us.”

Elsewhere, Megan Doward from Castlebury Farm in Aberdeenshire said being at the event with dozens of other suppliers was a networking opportunity alone.

She said: “I've already had three meetings. I’ve got another two before lunch and then six after lunch.

“I've got mostly UK companies; however, I've also got one US company and one from Indonesia so it’s all really exciting.”