Over 200 business meetings took place last week at the first cross-sector event between Scottish wholesalers and food and drink producers to help build stronger relationships between the sectors.

The event, which is part of the ‘Delivering Growth Through Wholesale’ programme facilitated by the Scottish Wholesale Association, Scotland Food & Drink, and Scottish Agricultural Society Scotland (SAOS), saw over 50 suppliers meet with over 30 wholesale buyers to showcase their products and spark new business opportunities.

Wholesalers from across Scotland, from regional SMEs to large nationals and from foodservice to retail, met with brands including Blackthorn Salt, Duncan Farms and Lussa Gin in person at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel last week for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

The Delivering Growth Through Wholesale programme is an ambitious initiative designed to provide businesses with the tools and information they need to help them maximise opportunities within the wholesale industry – which is currently worth £1.7 billion (GVA) to the Scottish economy – and increase the amount of local sourcing among Scottish wholesalers.

The programme is being delivered through the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership’s Recovery Plan which is supported by Scottish Government.

Colin Smith, chief executive of the Scottish Wholesale Association, said: “We have developed this programme with our partners to strengthen engagement with wholesalers and local producers and help them access new markets – driving more Scottish products into the 5,000 convenience stores and 30,000 hospitality, tourism and leisure venues that our members supply.

“This Meet The Wholesaler event has been the peak of the programme after a series of workshops designed to educate our wholesalers and suppliers on how to work more collaboratively together, by providing them with practical tips, solutions and support. We are delighted by the positive feedback received for the programme and event, and look forward to building on this success in the future.”

In a follow-up survey of the event, all respondents saw benefit in attending with the vast majority seeing it as “extremely useful”. Nearly 50% of the respondents made at least five new business contacts for driving their business forward, while 12% made nine or more potential new listing opportunities.

John Davidson, deputy chief executive and strategy director at Scotland Food & Drink, added: “Scotland has a fantastic reputation for producing quality products by amazing people so it's great to work with the Scottish Wholesale Association and SAOS to create more routes to market.

“It's a critical time for both wholesalers and suppliers, so this is when we need to be working together to identify and create opportunities to help grow the industry. We envisage that this event will be the catalyst for further programmes that will build future engagement and business opportunities.

Federico Lubrani, product development buyer at Dunns Food and Drinks, said: “We wanted to get involved in the programme to develop our portfolio of local products, and help small and medium producers find another route to market.

“This has been a great opportunity and we are excited by the producers and the products that we've been introduced to. We hope to continue to build these relationships and work more with them on the back of this programme.”

Claire Fletcher, who heads up sales and marketing at Lussa Gin, said: “Being based on the Isle of Jura, we rarely get the opportunity to network or meet wholesale buyers in person, so this programme and event has been extremely valuable for us.

“I was looking to pick up one more wholesale customer for this year, and I think I’ve done that at this event. The support we've received through the programme has allowed us to better understand the wholesale channel and we look forward to working more with buyers in the sector in the future.”

To find out more about opportunities available to Scottish food and drink businesses, visit www.foodanddrink.scot