Celebrating our Success
Scotland's National Food and Drink Conference took place on 7th March 2012 at Perth Concert Hall. The day featured a range of presentations, a schools debate, questions and answer sessions, a chef demonstration area, and a lively marketplace with many local producers. Over 300 people from a range of sectors attended the event.
Host Stephen Jardine welcomed delegates to the conference. He said that during the current economic climate few sectors seem to have much to celebrate, but the food and drink industry is the exception.
Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment said there has been a 25% growth in the food and drink industry over the past five years. He said food and drink is a local, national and international topic which also has differing and competing priorities.
Mr Lochhead also announced a further £2 million funding for food education in Scotland, saying he wants every child to benefit from food education by 2016. Find out more about the projects we fund @ http://www.scotland.gov.uk./Topics/Business-Industry/Food-Industry/national-strategy/education.
Links to all speeches and conference materials are in the left hand column.
Dr João Breda, World Health Organization
Dr João Breda, Programme Manager in Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity; Noncommunicable Diseases and Health Promotion Division at the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe. Dr Breda gave an interesting overview of health problems related to what we eat and drink and some of the programmes run by WHO to tackle these issues.
He said Scotland is a fantastic country in terms of nutrition and food and drink policy, and the food we produce. Dr Breda said Scotland was seen as an example to other countries in this field.
Dr Breda said it was very important how we tackle the fact that lower income groups have higher rates of obesity. He said in many countries there are a high percentage of people who are obese, and a high percentage of people who are malnourished. He said this is a huge challenge.
In terms of increasing physical activity, one of the examples Dr Breda used struck a chord with many in the audience. In a Scandinavian country they have banned cars from a certain distance to schools. This means that children, and parents, are forced to walk some of the way to school.
You can find out more on the World Health Organization website.
Question and answer session
There was a chance for delegates to put their questions to a panel which included Mr Lochhead, Dr Breda, James Withers from Scotland Food and Drink and Leona McDermid from Aberdeen Foyer. There was a wide variety of issues raised including social media and advertising to young people, the importance of local action and projects, the rise in people wanting to grow their own, the health benefits of gardening, schools and healthy eating and how the conference would excite the commercial food and drink industry.
Answers to all questions received for this session will be posted on this page shortly.
Profit through innovation
During the Profit through innovation session delegates had the chance ask questions of Helen Pratt from Interface Food and Drink, Jo MacSween from MacSween Haggis and Sue Gordon from Advanced Microwave Technologies Ltd.
Jo MacSween talked about their new single portion microwaveable haggis. Since the launch of this new product they have seen a quarter of a million new haggis customers. The product has been popular with both younger people and older people. Ms MacSween said focus groups were really important when developing the product as they weren't sure how people would respond to a traditional recipe being made for the microwave. It's exactly the same recipe, but innovation in packaging allows them to deliver it differently.
Ms MacSween said innovation is not just about products, it's about a mindset. They recently invested in training on innovation to all their staff. She said companies need to make the time to innovate. She suggested hiring time on other people's production lines when trying out new things.
Advanced Microwave Technologies Ltd is a global leader in the use of microwaves to heat and condition liquids, suspensions and semi solids. Sue Gordon from AMT Microwave Technologies talked about their innovation in the production of juices, smoothies, syrups, jams and so on.
Helen Pratt from Interface Food and Drink said there are some excellent examples of universities working with food and drink producers on innovation. Interface Food and Drink is a new Scottish network working to meet the research and innovation needs of Scottish food and drink companies. It is a partnership of 17 Scottish universities. You can find out more on the Interface Food and Drink website.
Learning with a twist
During the 'Learning with a twist' session we heard from Moira Stalker from the Scottish Food and Drink Federation who talked about the 'A Future in Food' programme. There are 300,000 jobs in the food and drink industry in Scotland, and a key strand of the SFDF's work is to promote the industry as a career destination of choice. The programme brokers partnerships between industry and schools, for example Eastbank Academy in Glasgow worked with Wiseman Dairies to produce the Milky Twist product.
After showing a short video about the project featuring pupils who were involved, teacher Scott McGimpsey from Eastbank Academy said the class were very lucky to get the chance to work with SFDF and Wiseman Dairies. He said the enthusiasm from Ms Stalker and Wiseman Dairies has been excellent and giving pupils connections with businesses has been invaluable.
Claire Doyle from Wiseman Dairies said it had been an absolute pleasure to work with pupils from Eastbank. She said it's a very dynamic process and you need a lot of energy but the rewards you get are fundamentally brilliant for an organisation.
You can get more information on the 'A Future in Food' programme on the SFDF website.
Dr Janey Thornton, US Department for Agriculture
Dr Janey Thornton, Deputy Under Secretary for Food and Nutrition at the US Department for Agriculture gave a very interesting talk about some of the food and nutrition programmes that are running in the US, including the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. She said that Scotland and the US have many similar issues and it was great to share good practice.
Dr Thornton said the US has really come full circle. During the Second World War it was found that many recruits could not pass the military health and physical activity tests because of malnutrition. Now around 25% of those who try to get into the military can't pass the same test because of obesity.
Dr Thornton talked about their School Meal Programme. Their aim is to ensure that all of America's children have access to safe, nutritious and balanced meals. In order for children to learn they need to be healthy, and teachers can tell the difference if children have had breakfast.
The US has a real problem with obesity, with around six million overweight children. Dr Thornton said a lot of money was being spent on healthcare related to obesity related health issues. She also said the country has a real problem with hunger. Dr Thornton said this wasn't always families on low incomes. She said there are kids that are wealthy and obese and those that are wealthy and hungry because of their lifestyle.
Dr Thornton said there is a need to make sure that children today understand the importance of farming and keeping farmland as farmland. She highlighted the 'Know your farmer know your food' programme and the Farm to School programme.
Dr Thornton also said they are encouraging locally procured foods go into the schools in the area where they are produced. More and more farmers are also going into the classroom. Chefs Move to Schools is part of the Let's Move campaign backed by Michelle Obama.
Dr Thornton said we need to remember it's for the kids and concluded by saying that working together and sharing ideas can make a difference.
Questions for Dr Thornton included those relating to vending machines in schools, packed lunches, procurement and advertising. Interestingly the average lunchtime in a US school is just 20 minutes and most campuses are closed campuses which means that the children must eat in the school. Dr Thornton said there are some parents who think that their children should be able to eat junk food if that's what they want. She tries to encourage parents to be parents not just friends, and to realise that's it's okay to say no to your child.
You can get more information on the US Department for Agriculture website.
One of the liveliest sessions during the day was the School Debate on the advertising of food and drink to young people. The motion was 'this house would ban the advertising of junk food to young people'. The proposers were Anna George and Tom Clode from Dollar Academy, while April Shepherd and Hannah Thomson from The High School of Dundee opposed the motion.
The young debaters impressed the audience with their well-articulated arguments for both sides, which was reflected in the vote at the end of the debate. The results were very close with 53% voting for the banning of junk food advertising to children and 47% against.
Alastair Dobson, Taste of Arran
Alastair Dobson presented on Taste of Arran, which brings together 11 premier food and drink producers from the Isle of Arran, and acts as the single point for sales, marketing and distribution. Mr Dobson talked about the importance of keeping an emotional connection - with stakeholders, consumers, communities, education and so on - without taking your eye off the ball commercially. He said keeping a commercial hat on wins for communities, tourism and food businesses but if you try to focus on any one of them you lose.
Mr Dobson said he sees massive opportunities for food and drink businesses and there is a lot of collaboration that needs to go on. For example working with local sports clubs needs to be looked at, particularly with the Commonwealth Games coming to Scotland in 2014. Mr Dobson also talked about the Taste Ayrshire initiative which will be working across the region.
Mr Dobson talked about the need to work internationally and to commercialise oppportunities. He showed a video of the Taste of Arran event held in George Square in Glasgow in May 2011 and asked why this couldn't be done all over the world!
You can find out more on the Taste of Arran website.
Restaurateur, entrepreneur and celebrity chef Nick Nairn gave the final speech of the day. He highlighted the National Food and Drink Policy and said one of the biggest tasks of the day was to find answers to how we can take things in the policy forward.
Mr Nairn said it is important to concentrate on areas where we can have tangible outcomes and make a difference. He highlighted three key areas which he thinks should be prioritised.
The first was food education. Mr Nairn welcomed Mr Lochhead's earlier announcement of £2 million investment in food education, but said he would like to see further investment made in this area. Mr Nairn emphasised the importance of getting children cooking with raw ingredients at an early age, warning that if we don't we will lose them to processed food forever. Mr Nairn wants to see food education become a priority in every school and be given the same prominence as subjects such as writing and arithmetic.
Mr Nairn said his second priority is to get cooking skills into every household in Scotland. He said this would mean less junk food and processed food. It could be something as simple as making a pot of soup, it doesn't have to be complicated. To achieve this, Mr Nairn said we need a national campaign to create a passion for food and more fresh produce being available to more people. He also highlighted the importance of using social media to connect with people.
The third priority Mr Nairn highlighted was the need for different parts of the sector to talk to each other and for barriers to be broken down. Everyone from producers to service staff need to be on board. Mr Nairn also said cooperation is about giving as well as taking. He announced that he would make his cook school at Lake of Menteith available free of charge for a gathering of people from across the industry who want to come along and make change. He added that he wanted to see new people - from educators to waiters. At the end of the day they would look at what had been achieved, what ideas had fermented and how enthusiasm can be harnessed to drive things forward.
In conclusion, Mr Nairn said it's not about what we say today, but what we do tomorrow.
Logo Design Competition
Videos from the Conference