Twenty food and drink businesses from Shetland, Argyll and Bute visited Orkney earlier last month (April) to find out how the island’s food group has made such a success of food and drink tourism.
Ten representatives of businesses from member organisation Shetland Food and Drink included Shetland Fisherman’s Association, Whalsay Made and Shetland Reel Gin.
Eight representatives from Food from Argyll and two from Bute Kitchen joined the collaborative visit to Orkney including Mull Cheese, Argyll Coffee and IslayCocoa.
The learning journey was been made possible with COVID recovery support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s (HIE), which gave groups the opportunity to identify and deliver projects that would help their member businesses recover from the impacts of the pandemic and take advantage of new opportunities.
The visit took in a talk and tour at Eviedale Bakehouse, a visit to Barony Mill, a stop-off at Birsay Bay Tearoom, a look at the JP Orkney honesty box and a late afternoon stop at Orkney Roastery on Saturday. Orkney Food and Drink has been in existence for 30 years.
Claire White from Shetland Food and Drink, said:
“The Orkney food and drink group is very proactive, well respected and has a high profile. I believe that Shetland Food and Drink can learn a lot from Orkney’s vibrant tourism sector and their collaborative approach.”
Shetland Food and Drink was formed in 2017 to promote Shetland produce and provide growth opportunities for member businesses. It works with Promote Shetland and the Shetland Tourist Association to bolster food and drink offerings available to tourists in collaboration with accommodation providers and tour guides.
The learning journey delegates received advice and information from their Orkney counterparts on how they tackle island-specific challenges such as supply chains and smoothing out the peaks and troughs of the tourist season.
As coordinator at Food from Argyll, Emma Goudie saw an opportunity not only to go to Orkney and learn from the businesses there, but to go alongside the Shetland group and multiply the networking and collaboration opportunities.
"We invited neighbouring group, Bute Kitchen, to come along too. The funding from HIE was instrumental in getting our group’s learning journey plans off the ground.
“It was something members always wanted to do and HIE’s support helped to make this happen. We have returned inspired by the background and stories behind the fantastic Orkney producers we met. It was felt the networking with others who are as passionate about food and drink as they are was just as valuable as the learning.”
Laura Robertson, senior development manager from HIE’s food and drink team, said:
“Regional food groups like Shetland Food and Drink, Food From Argyll and Bute Kitchen are important to the sector’s recovery and future growth. We are really pleased to have been able to provide support to enable our region’s food and drink businesses to travel to Orkney to collaborate with other producers and spark ideas and innovation, which in turn will fuel growth across the region.”