Online orders helping food and drinks firms cope with impact of pandemic

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VisitScotland is optimistic e-commerce can help get the Scottish food and drink sector through the toughest year ever, as businesses across the country report increase demand.

The national tourism organisation’s Only In Scotland campaign has been encouraging Scots to rediscover the unique experiences on offer here, following the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visitors spend around £995 million annually on eating and drinking and it accounts for the largest share of visitor spend after accommodation and travel costs.

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Research by Scotland Food and Drink suggests 70% of Scottish consumers believe it’s important to have locally sourced produce available, and 49% of Scottish shoppers also claim they would be willing to pay more for Scottish produce.

Food and Drink fortnight (5th-20th September) is underway, celebrating Scottish food and drink heroes who supplied groceries during lockdown as well as provide recipe ideas online, virtual cooking classes and tasting sessions while people were at home.

Many micro businesses have been experimenting with online orders and home delivery for the first time.

Isle20 was set up by Rhoda Meek on Tiree, Argyll & Bute as an online marketplace for the Scottish islands.

Rhoda Meek, founder of the isle20 and isleEats websites said: “After launching the isle20 marketplace, I discovered that the most popular products were definitely in the food sector.

“Despite making up only about 10% of our product listings, food and drink sales generate about a third of our revenue. The success of food sales led me to set up isleEats.com.

“I’m trying it out in Tiree – and hoping to expand it for next season. The goal is to help businesses sell more by creating a central place for visitors to find food and buy local.

“The local Flour Folks bakery has been doing a roaring trade with deliveries!”

Jo Vale operates Tiree Chocolates which is listed on the site and she said: “As a boutique business isle20 has been invaluable in helping me to expand my market this year.

“I’d previously mainly sold to visitors coming to Tiree but I now have customers across the UK who are keen to try island products.”

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: “Scotland has world-class local produce and brands that not only sell all over the world, but enhances our tourism product to visitors here at home.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devasting impact on the tourism and events industry.

“However, our sector has shown great resilience to rise to the most challenging year we have ever had, and to adapt and innovate to new ways of reaching customers.”

Lucy Husband, Market Development & Business Engagement Director at Scotland Food & Drink, said: “The impact of Covid-19 has changed the way we shop and forced many food and drink businesses to significantly adapt their approach.

“While more and more of us are shopping for food and drink online, the appetite for high-quality, local products remains strong.

“In fact, our research shows that 70% of Scottish consumers believe it’s important to have locally sourced produce available, and 49% of Scottish shoppers also claim they would be willing to pay more for Scottish produce.”

VisitScotland have details how to get involved and support Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight on visitscotland.org https://www.visitscotland.org/news/2019/championing-our-countrys-larder