Innovation missing from Scottish manifesto pledges for the food and drink sector

Stuart McCallum, RSM’s head of food and drink in Scotland

When you look at each manifesto for the Scottish parties, it’s good to see that food and drink is a prominent sector – highlighting its importance to support the future growth of the Scottish economy.

There are a number of commonalities, including certainty around trade agreements and market access post-Brexit; the impact the loss of freedom of movement, and potential subsequent skills gap, could have; protecting geographical indication; food labelling and health concerns such as sugar tax; and waste reduction across the industry. 

This is welcome news as these are key concerns for food and drink manufacturers across Scotland; however the one thing that could support a number of areas is innovation - and there is a distinct lack of reference to this from a sector perspective.

Take the ‘sugar tax’. There is pressure on food and drink manufacturers to reduce sugar content which highlights a need to innovate new or adapted products to offer a low sugar alternative. In addition, in a world where consumers increasingly demand healthy or free-from options staying ahead of the market and introducing new products is key to future success.

Innovation also feeds into the waste reduction measures - whether it’s developing new methods to package products or finding new ways to use production waste – manufacturers in Scotland will need to innovate to meet ever-changing criteria.

Whether it’s through product innovation, improved productivity or using customer data to make informed business decisions, technology and innovation hold the key to ensure Scottish food and drink manufacturers remain competitive on a global scale. Transformation is a key pillar for success which is why the lack of tailored support to innovate within the food and drink sector is so striking. Many will be hoping this is just an omission from the manifestos, and sector specific support will be available in the future to help them take an innovative step forward.