ONE’s bespoke Business Growth Programme catalyses growth in ambitious food and drink producers

Food and drink producers from across North East Scotland have secured contracts with national distributors, scaled up production, diversified product ranges, and accelerated their growth plans through their participation in the bespoke business growth programme led by private sector economic development body Opportunity North East (ONE).

Twelve food and drink producers from across the region were selected for the 2018 programme, which began in March and comprised an intensive four months of workshops and practice, including support from industry experts and access to buyers. The participating businesses in 2018 range from a nut butter producer, to dairy farms, to traditional ice cream, and five brewers and distillers.

The ONE Food & Drink Business Growth Programme (BGP) was launched in 2017 and is designed for owners and managers of food and drink businesses with growth potential. It is led by ONE Food, Drink & Agriculture and supported by Aberdeenshire Council and Aberdeen City Council.

The 2018 participants were:

Blackford Craft Distillery


Devenick Dairy

Forest Farm Organic Dairy

Granny Bakes

Hungry Squirrel

Kincardine Kitchen

Lost Loch Distillery

Portsoy Ice Cream

Six Degrees North

Teasmith Gin

Wark Farm

The companies have experienced workshops, connection to the wide range of support and advice, a best practice visit to the UK’s leading, independent, added-value food ingredients manufacturer Macphie, and one-to-one coaching by sector specialists. This has culminated in the businesses creating individual growth plans with a focus on new products, new markets and securing new retail and food service listings to increase turnover, create new jobs and accelerate their growth. The aim is to give the participants the vision and confidence to believe that they can build much bigger businesses.

The businesses will now receive mentoring support from selected experience food and drink industry leaders and be assisted with access to specialist advice to help them realise their growth ambitions and plans.

Patrick Machray OBE, Chair of ONE’s Food, Drink & Agriculture Board, said: “This programme aims to give young or smaller food and drink businesses the practical support to realise their growth ambitions. Growing our food, drink and agriculture sector is an essential part of the long term economic diversification that ONE, and our partners, are pursuing. Supporting food and drink producers to grow faster through innovation and market development is key to achieving this. The intensive programme has enabled the 2018 companies to develop action plans to increase their turnover and scale up, and we’ll now support them with ongoing mentoring and access to specialist advice to maintain the pace.”

As a significant part of North East Scotland’s economy, growth in food, drink and agriculture productivity, national and international market development, and product innovation are priorities for ONE within the wider context of diversifying the regional economy.

Councillor Jenny Laing, Co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, said: “It’s clear that local food and drink businesses have benefitted greatly from participating in the ONE food and drink Business Growth programme as it has given them the opportunity to scale up production, secure national contracts and diversify their product range.

“One of our key economic objectives is to encourage and support the diversification of the regional economy and this is a great example of how Aberdeen City Council can work in partnership with the private sector to make this happen.”

Chair of Aberdeenshire Council's Infrastructure Services Committee, Peter Argyle, said: "The food and drink production sector has been a major player in the north east economy for a number of years now and local businesses continue to produce innovative and interesting products which have appeal far beyond our area.

"Providing support to business growth and development programmes such as this is just one way Aberdeenshire Council can assist and encourage them to reach new markets, develop new products and so improve their businesses, to the benefit of the whole area.

"Aberdeenshire, already world renowned for its agriculture and fishing industries, is increasingly becoming very well known for some of its excellent food and drink brands and it's great to see this diversification of the economy and to be able to offer assistance with that."

Susan Yule founded Hungry Squirrel in 2017 to produce delicious, healthy nut butters using only 100% natural ingredients. High in fibre, protein and with no added sugar, the range of seven products was recognised earlier this year when the company won the Healthy Choice Award at the Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Awards for its Crunchy ABC Mix.

Susan said: “The ONE food and drink BGP’s focus on customers and markets highlighted the strong movement towards clean eating, provenance and sustainability. All three trends are closely aligned with Hungry Squirrel and this is something we can capitalise on and use to differentiate ourselves within the marketplace.

“Through the programme, I made a new connection to a fellow local food producer and as a result, am moving into commercial premises next month. I’ve invested in a new nut butter mill to allow me to increase productivity and volume and will now be working towards attaining Safe and Local Supplier Approval (SALSA) certification which is essential to meet the demands of larger customers. I’ve also had my first experience meeting a national buyer which increased my confidence and expanded my ideas about where the business could grow and where I should focus my attention. I am now confident I have formulated a growth plan which is manageable, realistic and ambitious for the future.”

Self-confessed gin enthusiasts Emma and Nick Smalley launched the Teasmith Spirit Company in 2016. Inspired by Aberdeenshire’s link to the Sri Lankan tea trade, The Teasmith is distilled with a black loose-leaf Ceylon tea sourced from the Amba Estate in Sri Lanka to give the gin its distinctive taste. Emma explained the impact the BGP has had on their business: “The timing of this year’s BGP coincided with my decision to leave my previous employment and focus on Teasmith full-time. In the 18 months since launching we had spent most of our energy developing the product and selling it locally and, although neither of us have worked in the food and drink industry before, we recognised that we had reached a pivotal point in our development. Working closely with the ONE team and the industry experts, we have been able to absorb their sector-specific expertise to really concentrate on our costs, the routes to market and different markets including wholesale, which are new to us.

“We understand the value to be gained from investing in our own profile and were thrilled to recently be awarded two International Wine & Spirits Challenge (IWSC) awards which are designed to recognise and reward the very best in the wine and spirits industry. We hope this will be a key part of our refreshed buyer presentation pack which is being developed to target new buyers and larger deals in the premium retailers. The support to drive and grow your business is out there and, for us, the Business Growth Programme has been key to renewing our sense of direction.”

Those interested in future ONE food and drink business growth programmes can contact info@opportunitynortheast.com for further information.