People. Process. Systems.

Ryan Feely
29th October 2020

Food and Drink Virtual Conference HeaderYesterday we had the chance to attend the Food & Drink virtual conference 2020, hosted by Brodies. This event brought together businesses from across the food and drink supply chain to discuss the opportunities, challenges and issues faced by one of Scotland’s best performing sectors

Lisa was kind enough to share her thoughts and takeaways from the day in the notes below.


There were 7 speakers all talking about their journeys through Covid-19, what effects it had on their businesses and how they thought they’d move forward. Brexit also featured quite heavily as there will be a lot of regulatory changes which will need reviewed post Brexit which haven’t been agreed as yet despite it only being 64 days away e.g. label/packaging changes/updates to items being manufactured.

  • James Withers – CEO of Scotland Food & Drink
  • Paul Parkins – MD Border Biscuits
  • Scott Smith – Founder of Root to Market
  • Alex Bruce – MD Adelphi Distillery
  • Andrew Keeble – Co Founder of HECK
  • Graham Whittle – Founder Whitby Seafoods
  • Amelia Harvey – Co Founder the Collective Dairy


Traditional distribution had been impacted short term and alternative routes were having to be thought of and put in place very quickly.

Supply Chain

Whilst supply chain issues affected most businesses most suggested there was always an alternative as things other than Covid has tested the need to change before. However, Covid was different as there couldn’t be a planned approach it was an overnight instant problem that needed rectified quickly. The F&D Supply Chain was thought to be very resilient and innovative generally


As sectors were wiped out overnight the only means of survival for some in the hospitality sector was to diversify their offering e.g. Root to Market founders originally ran a restaurant but suddenly found themselves closed and decided to come up with an online platform to connect their supply chain (local producers/businesses) and still be able to offer a service to local customers. However once out of lockdown they suffered a 30% decrease in the new business too! More online functions having to be thought about quickly e.g. virtual whisky tastings


Root to Market also started farming their own fruit and veg to help maintain control of their supply chain. Whitby Seafoods bought their own fishing boats for the same reasons
People – Lots of business have good people and didn’t want to lose them. Others have struggled to get more people, i.e. fishing industry


Highlighted the need in some instances to retrain/reskill staff on entirely different roles to survive. Also highlighted good people and their willingness to change


Piloting the use of Blockchain software by Adelphi Distillers as a risk management tool to offer an interactive, live, stock system which also interacts with the consumer by QR code scanning and hopefully may integrate with legislation going forward too. They done this as they suddenly found their sales down and wanted to get online and direct to consumers instead of through retailers. HECK automated some of their production line as it aided social distancing and see the potential for further change


Apparently a good time to do TV ad’s as no one putting their money there!


Many mixed feelings, some saying it’ll be great e.g. fishing, they’ll get more quota however the downside to that is most of the boats are currently manned by mostly EU Nationals so they may struggle to man the boats going forward. However, there will be disruptions to the sector given the changes required and the thought is there needs to be a 3-6 months grace period to enable businesses to get through it. Practical support is needed for businesses to adapt to the changes.

Food & Drink Virtaul Conference Conclusion

The outlook for most was to continue to try and maintain their workforce through these hard times and try and claw some lost profit back. A lot of discussion on how people are key and the need to look after their wellbeing to ensure they are there going forward. Finally, the main thought on Brexit was that we’ll just need to wait and see, however the common thought was we’ll get through it.

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