Growing opportunities in public food for Scottish producers

EVERY YEAR, the public sector in Scotland spends almost £150 million on food and drink – and there is a big political push for more of that budget to go to local food producers.

As the Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight draws to a close, the message has gone out that there has 'never been a better time' for Scottish food businesses to get involved in supplying public foodservice.

Over a third of local authority money spent on Scotland Excel frameworks, which covers areas such as school meals, is now spent on food that has been produced or manufactured in Scotland – a figure that has grown by more than half since 2015. Promotional body Scotland Food and Drink is now working towards Ambition 2030, a strategy which aims to double the size of the food and drink industry in Scotland to £30 billion in turnover by 2030.

SFD's uk market development director, Lucy Husband, said: "As we celebrate Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, it’s great to see that recent public procurement framework developments have resulted in the sector introducing more local suppliers to their facilities across the country. Supplying the public sector can be very profitable for Scottish food and drink producers, and SFD are working closely with Scotland Excel to highlight these opportunities. We need Scottish suppliers to engage in this lucrative sector and will be providing future support to understand the changing dynamics and increase in opportunities it brings.”

For food producers and suppliers, the public sector can be a rewarding client. East Ayrshire Council's head of facilities Andrew Kennedy made the case that councils are good customers: “We pay our bills! And the continuity of demand, particularly with school meals, means there’s a fairly consistent level of supply requirement which is a positive from a supplier’s point of view.”

As well as reliability, supplying local authority contracts can help to connect businesses more closely to the local community. Magnus Swanson, the owner and managing director at Swanson’s Food Wholesalers, said: “We’ve been supplying Highland Council with fresh fruit and vegetables for seven years now. Not only do we take great comfort in the fact that our children are being fed the best of local produce, but this also helps to promote what fantastic food is on our doorstep and at the same time supports local farming and agriculture. As a local company we love to support local as much as possible.”

Local authorities are seeking out opportunities to support their local suppliers. Jayne Jones, national chair of ASSIST FM, said: “Local authorities across Scotland are already making great strides in supporting local food businesses through their procurement. But we know there’s the opportunity to do even more.

“Buying food and drink locally is investing public money back into the local economy, which supports local business and boosts employment. It also ensures that produce is fresh, and shorter delivery distances mean lower food miles, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Putting high quality Scottish food on the public plate benefits everybody involved.”

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, said: “Through our Food for Life programme the Scottish Government is ensuring that more school children than ever are able to access healthy and nutritious meals that have been sourced, grown and produced locally. Scotland has a natural larder that is the envy of the world, and so it’s vital that we do everything we can to encourage more people – including public sector organisations – to look to Scotland first when considering food options.”

Scottish suppliers – of any size – interested in exploring public procurement should get in touch with Food for Life Scotland’s supply chain officer, Lucie Wardle, via

Suppliers can also find support from the Supplier Development Programme and find contract opportunities on Public Contracts Scotland