Appetite for fresh, seasonal produce
A new toolkit which helps caterers provide consumers with more information about the origins of the food and drink available in Scotland's hotels, cafes, pubs and restaurants was launched in Edinburgh today.
A successful trial of the Provenance on a Plate guide has already generated increased sales of fresh, seasonal produce, raise greater consumer awareness of local produce, and built stronger links with local food suppliers.
Designed as a code of practice, it aims to clarify legal requirements and best practice guidelines for food and drink origin declarations on menus and provide clear, accurate and consistent information to consumers when eating out.
Almost 30 stakeholders within Scotland's food and drink industry were consulted during the development of the toolkit, which aims to:
- Better inform consumers about where their food comes from
- Encourage responsible behaviour throughout the supply chain
- Improve links between local producers and consumers
- Change behaviour and attitudes towards diet and food choices that deliver health and wealth benefits
Speaking at the official launch of the initiative, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
"It's clear that the public want to do their bit to support local producers during these challenging times and at the same time improve their health and the environment. This toolkit provides consumers with the information they need to make informed choices about the food and drink they buy. The pilot achieved some impressive results and the feedback from those businesses involved was extremely positive.
"Our cafes, hotels, restaurants and pubs have a key role to play in building Scotland's reputation as a land of food and drink. Improving our credentials is not just about providing quality produce but also provenance and telling consumers - especially those who visit Scotland as a destination of choice - a story about the food and drink they are buying.
"This is just the latest in a series of initiatives we are introducing to build on Scotland's food revolution. I look forward to hearing more in the near future about how this project has helped raised awareness of our fantastic produce."
Anna Davies, Marketing Manager at Scotland Food & Drink, said:
"This toolkit will be a hugely useful resource for Scotland's food and drink industry. I hope it will encourage Scottish sourcing and foster a better understanding of labelling and the importance of provenance."
Executive chef at the MacLeod Hotels Group's flagship restaurant, Chandlery at The Bosville on Skye, John Kelly said:
"We have always seen the importance of sourcing local produce for our menus with guests frequently commenting on local ingredients as 'the best ever'. Building on this interest, we even published a book promoting recipes and our suppliers, which has already sold over 4,000 copies.
"We weren't too sure how local food would translate to the more traditional Broadford Hotel, however, food sales in the bar and restaurant have increased by 40 per cent over the same period last year. The toolkit is also valuable resource in training waiting staff, so they can provide accurate and knowledgeable answers to customers' questions about produce origin and provenance"
Jacqueline & Pauline O'Donnell own and run two popular restaurants, The Sisters, in the middle of Glasgow. Pauline said:
"Our scallops & langoustines are landed at the pier in Ullapool, and we know the farmer who supplies our beef. We have always been committed to working with Scotland's larder in sourcing the best suppliers and already made some origin declarations on our website and menus. Always keen to find new ways to celebrate Scotland's amazing produce, we used the toolkit to develop this further, and then asked our customers what they thought. We were delighted when one of the dishes, Venison with 'roast Arran beetroot', sold 20 more than the same menu item without provenance declaration in the previous week."
Shirley Spear, proprietor of the Three Chimneys Restaurant in Skye and winner of the 'Catering in Scotland Award for Lifetime Excellence in 2009', said:
"In the nicest possible way, I have been "naming and shaming" fresh ingredients from the Isle of Skye for 25 years - to the huge advantage of my business and also the producers, growers, fishermen and suppliers throughout my area. The menu is every restaurant's greatest sales pitch. It is a vital tool for attracting customers. The Provenance Toolkit will provide a superb guide and extremely useful source of reference for every restaurant and food retailer that recognises the value of promoting the ingredients sourced form the shelves of Scotland's unique larder."
Professor Jan Bebbington, Vice Chair of Sustainable Development Commission Scotland, said:
"Eating more fresh seasonal food is important to reduce the negative environmental impact of our diets. We have seen a great number of local food initiatives in the last few years and this new toolkit will help consumers to make informed choices and support local producers and suppliers.
"It has previously been quite difficult for consumers to check the origin and sustainability of the produce they are offered both in restaurants and supermarkets. It is very encouraging to see that the Scottish Government is developing tools to make it easier. We hope this will help put resilience and sustainability at the heart of food policy and create a more sustainable local economy."
The trial, involving 15 businesses (cafes and restaurants) from Moffat to Stornoway, generated positive feedback in terms of increasing customer awareness of where produce comes from and improving links with local suppliers. Customers voiced an eagerness to support local enterprise and reduce food miles as well as an appetite to know where their food had come from. One business reported that products were selected from 5 new suppliers on the back of the trial, the vast majority of customers questioned noticed menu declarations, with 60 per cent stating that it affected their food choices. Increased sales of local food were reported as being achieved following use of menu origin declarations.
Each section of the toolkit gives information on:
- Legal Requirements - outlines information that applies specifically to caterers
- Best Practice Guidelines - advises on additional good practice
- How to Apply in Your Business - suggests ways of using origin information on menus
- Case Studies - practical examples showing how to present origin information
- Contacts/Useful Links - suggested sources of further information, including sourcing
In January 2010 the Scottish Government launched the "Eat Fresh, Eat Seasonal" campaign to encourage the public to think about the environmental, economic and health benefits of what goes into their shopping baskets. The campaign has been supported by a series of events across Scotland and a number of partner agencies.