IsleEats

ONLINE orders helping firms cope with impact of pandemic

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.

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 is underway, until the 20th September, celebrating Scottish food and drink heroes who supplied groceries during lockdown as well as provided 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.

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.

“We proudly launched our SupportLocal.scot directory during lockdown to meet demand and provide a useful platform for businesses to reach new consumers. In this incredibly difficult time for so many people, food and drink producers have shown resilience in their ability to innovate and adapt. Scotland boasts some of the best food and drink products in the world, and we should all endeavour to support local producers and enjoy the fruits of Scotland’s larder.”

Whisky Hammer is a family-run whisky auction service based in Ellon, Aberdeenshire. It was established in 2015 by brothers Daniel and Craig Milne.

Co-founder and managing director Daniel said: “Like most local businesses back in March, we were naturally apprehensive about how our operation would be impacted under the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Our business is almost entirely based online, which has provided to be a significant advantage.  This, alongside our ability to implement the required safety measures in our office for our small team to be able to continue to operate safely, and work from home if required, has allowed the operation to continue to run throughout lockdown.”

Tim Roads launched marketplace website Schop late last year in Edinburgh, offering locally sourced food and drink from independent retailers.

Tim said: “So far the business we have generated this year has surpassed our expectations. We are on course to double our initial target of orders for the year. During lockdown, a lot of people tried us because many shops were running low on stock and our community of small suppliers had the contacts to source ingredients and sustain production.

Although things levelled out a bit since restrictions lifted, many customers are returning to us because of the quality of fresh, seasonal produce. We tend to stock items that are having a good season to maximise the taste and customers value this level of insight and it gives them that important connection to the land. This has been a particularly good year for Scottish strawberries and blueberries.

“Schop’s delivery service is carbon-neutral and we use as little packaging as possible and where packaging is required we endeavour to use either reusable, compostable or recyclable. So residents and visitors can leave no trace when they enjoying our food on the go. Because of our success, we are able to rent a unit soon and are planning to work with an Edinburgh chef to offer meals in our deliveries. There’s a great community of small businesses working together.”

James Kidd, Head of Sales, Overtone (Glasgow Brewery) said: “The last 6 months have been very busy, our sales are up on last year. We have had to constantly change how we package our beer. The keg business instantly stopped when the pubs shut and the can and the online market went a bit crazy overnight. We are lucky enough to package on-site, so we were able to adapt the business with very few bottlenecks.”