Pic Alan Richardson Dundee, Pix-AR.co.uk Food and Drink Scotland
Howell Davies, Sector Engagement Project Manager, Interface

By Howell Davies, Sector Engagement Project Manager, Interface 

This Saturday brings Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight, a nationwide event which supports and promotes Scotland’s produce, and the people who grow, make, cook and sell it.

I see innovation and, in particular, the mind-set of individuals, the culture of companies and the support and expertise in place across the support organisations and universities as a key ingredient to continue the growth and success of the Scottish food and drink industry targeting £16.5billion by 2017.

I am privileged in my role that I get to attend some of the ‘kick off’ meetings where the companies and academics will sit around the table and finalise a plan of action and make sure everyone has a clear understanding of what is required of them for the project. In most cases, the company provides a tour of their operations as it gives the academic a deeper understanding of company activities, products and processes, which can add value to the project and in some cases highlight further opportunities.

I recently visited Macphie of Glenbervie, who manufacture ingredients for bakery, food service and food manufacturing services. They are not necessarily a brand you will see on the supermarket shelf but I guarantee you’ll have eaten products developed and manufactured by Macphie, whether as a glaze on a doughnut or a hollandaise sauce on your eggs benedict.

They invest heavily in R&D, developing new technologies, products, processes and packaging to add value to their business and better meet their customer needs. They have built internal capacity and increased employee expertise in areas such as analytical techniques. As part of their innovation approach and R&D programme they also bring in outside expertise such as academics through collaborations which are then translated into new commercial products and technologies.

What struck me about the development team was the mind-set and culture from the technologist to the director. For an area which relies on science and therefore, analysis, accuracy and methodology, they were very creative and even entrepreneurial in their approach. Developing new products and ingredients is such an integral part of the whole business, it has become an everyday part of their processes and culture and has been embraced by all.

I am also fortunate enough to be involved in a number of Common Interest Groups where the best meetings are always the ones held at someone’s business with the conversations generating ideas and an exchange of experiences and knowledge.

I recently visited Ivan Wood & Sons where as part of the Resource Efficiency Industry Advisory Group where we were given a tour of their operations. They are a wholesaler of fruit and vegetables, which has been developing and growing its processing facility for vegetable preparation and is always trying out new ways to extend shelf-life and to provide the best possible product to its customers.

They have also taken the sustainability agenda to the core of their business and are finding innovative ways of doing this not only to reduce costs in the long run but also as they feel it is the right thing to do for their business and the environment. Malcolm Wood is brimming with ideas, enthusiasm and plans for the new facility with energy reduction and renewable technologies to make his business as efficient and sustainable as possible.

As a result of a Eureka moment, his mindset, a lot of tenacity, hard work and some academic expertise from Abertay University, Malcolm and his team have developed a starch filter unit for chip shops called Peel Tech which prevents starch blocking drains and helps to recycle their waste.

In fact as part of the Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight and the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service Annual Conference there is a best practise visit to Ivan Wood.

Why not take the time out to discover more for yourself? It might just trigger an idea for business development or an inspirational moment of your own. Or join the celebration on social media #scotfoodfort – we’ll be there, celebrating business-academic partnerships and all things food and drink.

01 September 2016