Tag Archives: food and drink

Comfort in figures for Scottish produce

venison image

Adam HardieBy Adam Hardie, Business Development Partner and Head of Food and Drink with Scottish accountancy firm, Johnston Carmichael

My role as Head of Food and Drink at Johnston Carmichael is a fairly clear indication of my interest in the sector, but it’s more than that. I’m absolutely passionate about what this country has to offer in terms of produce, and I’m pretty confident that I can answer most questions regarding the business perspective of the industry. Just to prove to you that I know what I’m talking about, take these two little facts on board… Continue reading

Celebrating Provenance

Dundee Cake


Dr. Jon Wilkin, Senior Food Technologist, Abertay University.

When I was asked to provide a blog entry on ‘Celebrating Provenance’ for the Interface Food & Drink team, I thought initially of my homeland – Cornwall.  Three things spring to mind – rocky coasts, clotted cream and pasties – you may even add a fourth – Poldark.  Leaving the rocky coasts behind (and Poldark) what we are left with are clotted cream and pasties, which are not just any old food products but real Cornish Clotted Cream and Cornish Pasties. Continue reading

Brewing success in Shetland

Kjol at Shetland Harbour

By Silke Reeploeg, Staff Researcher with the Centre for Nordic Studies, University of the Highlands and Islands

Earlier this year the University of the Highlands and Islands received funding from the Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher Scheme to collaborate with the Lerwick Brewery in Shetland on a research and knowledge transfer project.  The aim of the project was to develop an ‘events range’ of beers to coincide with local events on Scotland’s northernmost island group.  Sounds good right?  The result was a fantastic, limited edition, beer inspired by the annual ‘Bergen-Shetland’ yacht race, which was launched during the race June. Continue reading

Grasping opportunities

Birthday Candles

Having just celebrated another birthday (although I am beginning to wonder if celebrate is the right word), it seems natural to reflect on the previous year, on what have been the highs and lows. I suppose every year sees a mix of arrivals and departures, some welcomed and some mourned.   What I now see as being important is the grasping of opportunities that present themselves, however large or small they may be.

Continue reading

Why the long face?






By Helen Pratt, Interface Food & Drink

Anyone involved in any way in the food industry cannot help but be horrified by the current scandal concerning horsemeat. Scottish suppliers work so hard to satisfy the high standards of all the major retailers as well as to meet the high welfare standards demanded by British consumers, it is incredibly disappointing to have the food industry tainted by this criminal activity. Questions need to be asked right the way along the food chain as to how on earth this happened, and as consumers, we cannot be left out of that interrogation – after all, what did we think we were getting when we bought a ready meal for a pound?

I am sure there is nothing wrong with horsemeat, but culturally, we choose not to eat it, choose being the operative word. It may well be that at the right price and properly labelled, consumers will get over their aversion and happily eat it – but we all demand to know exactly what we’re eating. It seems to me to make something of a mockery of the traffic light system of labeling. What’s the point of trying to warn us of the risk high fat, salt, and/or sugar content of our foods if we can’t trust the label that tells us what the ingredients supposedly are?

At Interface Food & Drink we are proud to work with many Scottish producers and know how hard they work to produce good, trustworthy food. I hope no Scottish suppliers find themselves suffering an undeserved lack of confidence as a result of this scandal.

The good news story in the Scottish food industry is the amount of support available for innovation. I met recently with many of the initiatives and support mechanisms, such as Food Health Innovation Service, Scottish Food and Drink Federation Reformulation Programme, Biosciences KTN, Scotland Food and Drink and Scottish Enterprise. There is a tremendous willingness on the part of all these parties to work together for the benefit of the sector. We will be doing more in the coming months to let you know what’s available. In the meantime, get in touch if we can be of help or can point you in the right direction.

What a waste!

I was staggered by the recent report which states that as much as half of all the food produced in the world is thrown away (2 billion tonnes worth)! The report then goes on to say that 30% of vegetable crops in the UK are not harvested because of their physical appearance. – Who can resist a comedy wonky vegetable?!!

It is amazing that there are still such high levels of food waste taking place throughout the product lifecycle from production to logistics and retail display to consumption. Although progress is being made through various Government initiatives to try to reduce the levels of waste, both with consumers and businesses, there is still some way to go.

Technology is also playing a role by creating efficiencies in packaging, supply chains and also by changing consumer behaviour within their own homes. Through the use of connected devices Samsung have created the ultimate smart fridge helping you to keep track of the food in your fridge even suggesting suitable recipes you can make. At the more extreme end of the technology scale there was the first ever “smart” utensil on display at this year’s CES 2013 expo in Las Vegas, a fork that controls your portion size and food intake.

Our Interface Food and Drink team are working with the Scottish food and drink industry in a number of areas to help businesses with supply chain issues; efficiencies in manufacturing, managing costs/rising prices in a recession; energy and sustainability in the reduction of waste, utilities management, packaging and technology to name but a few. Contact the team to see how they can help your business.

Interface Food & Drink are launching today the Interface Food & Drink Innovation Competition 2013 for a £25,000 grant to stimulate innovation and the adoption of new technologies within the Scottish food and drink industry. Find out more.

Interface have also worked with Pete Higgins inventor of the UWI Label, which is a smart label that indicates how long any jar has been open reducing the amount of food thrown away. We facilitated a partnership with UWI and Heriot Watt University which has developed the product further with hopes that it will hit the shelves later this year. Read more.

So there is becoming less and less room for excuses for the amount of waste we produce. Now where are those left over mince pies…

I Posy@interface

Food – but no turkey!






 By Fiona Schaefer

As we approach the holidays we’re still very busy. Last week Siobhan and I were planning 2013 activities with the Food & Health Innovation Service (FHIS), a Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise project helping Scottish food and drink businesses to capitalise on the growing market for healthy or healthier products.  The next FHIS event is on Consumer Choice at the Lighthouse in Glasgow on 7th February 2013.  Book your place now to gain insight on how consumers make choices and how this can help you adapt your products and develop new ones to capitalise on the growing health and wellness market.  More are in the planning stage with topics around innovating to stay ahead of regulations (nutritional claims, labeling legislation, etc) and another focusing on the elderly and fortified or functional foods.

We had a great time at our first Interface Excellence Awards, congratulations to all the winners and shortlisted companies. Click here to find out more.

Scottish Enterprise has also been busy in the past few months with its Winning Through Innovation – New Product Development Workshops and they are coming to Edinburgh from January to March 2013, find out more here.

So lots to keep you busy in the New Year and in the meantime I hope you’re enjoying the festive season!

Wedding bells in the air




 By Helen Pratt


My last blog entry began with the statement I never knew how to open it; this entry is the exception that proves the rule, it is very easy to know how to start it. Congratulations to our own Laura Noble who got married on Saturday in Inverness. Many of the team were there to wish Laura and groom Robert well. I am sure everyone will join me in wishing them every happiness for the future.

What a wonderful time of year to get married; for me at least, this time of year, between Thanksgiving celebrations and Christmas festivities, is almost the best. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the BBC announces the winners of its Food & Farming awards at this time. At Interface Food & Drink it is sometimes easy to think that innovation has to be about cutting edge technology; these awards are a very good way of reminding us that sometimes innovation is just about doing things differently, or even about remembering the way we used to do things.
I think I might be tempted to introduce a new category on exactly that theme – doing traditional things in a modern world. Edinburgh’s Farmers’ Market is a great example – bringing produce to the city centre, but using Facebook and Twitter to let customers know exactly which stallholders will be there on a weekly basis. The winner in this category was Sutton Bonington Farmers Market. This was founded by a group of post-graduate students at Nottingham University who approached the alumni association for the funding necessary to set up stalls to provide good wholesome food to students on campus who might otherwise struggle for access. Kilchoman Distillery on Islay is taking whisky right back to its roots, literally. They’re farming the barley, malting it and distilling the whisky on the farm itself. And possibly my favourite entry, Martha Payne, the schoolgirl whose blog on school dinners not only hit the headlines but has probably been as influential as Jamie’s School Dinners in terms of raising awareness of what we’re feeding our children. She has also raised an enormous amount of money for schools in Malawi, ensuring that children there actually get a school dinner. Taking such positive action, using such a contemporary vehicle, teaches us all a lesson on what is possible with a little imagination and a lot of determination – surely the basis of all innovation.

The Today programme on Radio 4 said today that not one British company had made the list of the world’s top 100 innovative companies; the criteria included numbers of patents filed successfully. The programme went on to discuss the failure to invest in research and development. Of course, here at Interface Food & Drink, our role is to promote that investment and to encourage companies to avail themselves of the leading edge research from our world-class universities, and there are some excellent case studies to highlight how effective this can be. The examples above, however, demonstrate vividly, innovation isn’t all about patents and it most certainly is within all our reach.

A world of contrasts

By Helen Pratt

I don’t know that any of us contributors to this blog ever sit down with a clear idea of what to write and this occasion has not proved to be the exception to the rule. In pondering what subject to tackle, I am struck by contrasts. Take this summer for example (please do!); it started out with drought warnings in a good bit of England and turned into the wettest summer since records began, and yet, over there in the normally wet Western Isles, they actually DID have a drought. Great for those who decided to holiday on Skye, and yet almost as bad for the crofters there as the rest of the summer has been for farmers all over the UK.

In search of sun and family, I went over to the States on holiday and was lucky enough to find both. The US has always been a land of plenty and indeed this summer was no exception – with lobster at under $5/lb and sweetcorn in abundance, there was plenty to celebrate. Imagine my disappointment at this particular contrast – only a week after sitting in the sun and swimming in the sea, I was scraping ice off my car back at home here in Scotland!

But I was given pause for thought at a government conference on food security I attended yesterday. The contrast between that land of plenty and what potentially lies ahead is stark indeed (and our tumultuous weather probably indicative of the change afoot). In 2009 Steven Chu, US Energy Secretary, outlined a scenario in which agricultural production in California comes to an end, just as the requirement for food production from every available acre of agricultural land reaches new heights. Statistics at this conference boggled – food demand is set to increase by 50% by 2030. And yet, and yet…. another speaker, Jeanette Longfield from Sustain pointed out that we are currently producing 4800 calories per day per head of population, twice the actual requirement. With over 1 billion people obese and the same number hungry, clearly there is an imbalance that words can not possible describe.

Equally fascinating, however, was the description of some of the research which is currently going on, in Scotland, in the UK and in the world, to tackle these issues. Some are small but with potential, such as enabling pubs to use less energy when cooling their draught beers; others are bigger, looking at ways to increase yield on crops or to make them less susceptible to climate instability, all of it fascinating and essential. I hope that Interface Food & Drink will be able to make a worthwhile contribution to this urgent problem.

In our quest to provide students who can tackle the future needs of the industry, we are hosting a placement event on 25th October, all about student placements and how to make the most of them: Find out more here.  Hope we’ll see some of you there.

And don’t forget, there is only three weeks left to get in your applications for the first Interface Excellence Awards!