Celebrating Our Local Flavours and Hospitality Talent – Recap of Food, Drink, and Tourism Industry Business Support Month

We’ve just wrapped up Food, Drink, and Tourism Industry Business Support Month, an exciting month dedicated to celebrating and supporting Central Scotland’s vibrant food, drink, and tourism industry.
The month brought together key stakeholders, industry professionals, and aspiring talents to celebrate the richness of our local culinary and hospitality scene. The event was a resounding success, with just under 200 people booking to attend five key events.

Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights from the month of events:

Employers Forum: Food and Drink
Bringing together employers from various sectors including food, drink, and tourism, this event aimed to tackle the pressing issues of skills shortages and forthcoming HR updates expected in 2024. Lawrence Durden from Skills Development Scotland, along with the Tourism and Hospitality Skills Group (THSG), shed light on the magnitude of the challenge, revealing a staggering statistic: the projected shortfall of workers needed to fill roles in the mid-term (2023-2026) is just under 40,000 over the next three years.

This revelation sparked a flurry of discussions, inspiring a collective determination to confront the workforce deficit head-on. Vicky Murphy, Director of HR and Organisational at STEP, provided attendees with a comprehensive update on the ever-evolving landscape of HR regulations, offering insights, best practices, and key considerations to navigate these changes effectively.

Kelly Harcus, Progression Lead at the Department for Work and Pensions, delved into the DWP ‘In Work Progression’ Funding Offer, offering valuable insights into funding opportunities and initiatives aimed at supporting workforce development. One key message highlighted during her presentation was the removal of the 16-hour rule, indicating that claimants are no longer restricted in the number of hours they can work and claim benefits.

Gordon Wright, Senior Learning and Employability Officer at Stirling Council, introduced the Job Creation and Enhancement Scheme for Parents. This scheme, aimed at empowering parents and fostering job creation within the community, was explored in depth during his presentation, offering valuable insights into funding opportunities available for parents seeking employment opportunities.

The event also highlighted the unique employment opportunities within Stirling’s landscape, with a particular focus on pathways for young people entering the industry.

Michelle Carr, Programme Lead from Developing the Young Workforce (DYW), shared compelling real-life stories of success and opportunity, showcasing inspiring narratives of young individuals making their mark in the sector.

Michelle Mitchell, Business Engagement and Innovation Officer at the Scotland International Environment Centre, University of Stirling, rounded off the event by exploring how students at the University can support the industry.

Chefs of the Future:
A triumphant return after a hiatus due to the pandemic, the Chefs of the Future event presented in collaboration with STEP, Forth Valley College, and Forth Valley Food and Drink Network, aimed to promote employment opportunities for the next generation of chefs and hospitality students, underscoring the industry’s commitment to nurturing talent and fostering growth.

Food, Drink, and Tourism Industry Forum:
A cornerstone event of the month, the Industry Forum provided a platform for in-depth discussions and networking opportunities.

Stacey Spence, Coordinator of the Forth Valley Food and Drink Network, introduced the audience to the network’s initiatives, providing valuable insights into upcoming events and projects that aim to bolster the local food and drink scene.

Fiona Richmond, Head of Regional Food at Scotland Food & Drink, shed light on the support provided by the organisation, delving into the latest industry insights and strategies to promote Scottish produce. She shared compelling statistics, revealing that over four in five Scots express a desire to purchase more food and drink produced in Scotland. Fiona also discussed the evolving definition of “local” food and drink, noting that in 2022, only 8% viewed their town or city as local, while in 2023, this increased to 13%. Similarly, perceptions of the region and country as local also saw significant shifts, with 26% viewing the region as local in 2023 compared to 34% the previous year, and 57% viewing the country as local in 2022 compared to 47% in 2023. Additionally, she highlighted a decrease in the percentage of people viewing the UK as local, from 9% in 2022 to 6% in 2023.

Claire Gaspar, Industry Relationship Manager at VisitScotland, provided a comprehensive update on the business support offered by VisitScotland, offering insights into tourism trends and preparations for the upcoming 2024 season. The rising trend of solo travel, particularly among individuals aged 65 and above, was discussed, indicating evolving preferences within the tourism industry.

Jillian Schofield, Service Manager for Culture, Events, and Tourism at Stirling Council, outlined the council’s Culture and Tourism plans, inviting businesses to participate and contribute to the region’s cultural and tourism initiatives. Insightful figures were shared regarding Stirling’s tourism, including visitor numbers, economic impact, and jobs supported over recent years:

  • 2019:
    • Visitors: 4.4 million
    • Economic Impact: £550 million
    • FTE Jobs Supported: 9,400
  • 2020:
    • Visitors: 1.8 million
    • Economic Impact: £225 million
    • FTE Jobs Supported: 5,000
  • 2022:
    • Visitors: 3.6 million
    • Economic Impact: £554 million
    • FTE Jobs Supported: 8,300

These figures underscore the significant role tourism plays in the local economy and highlight the importance of continued collaboration and innovation within the industry.

An Introduction to Canva for Food and Drink Businesses:
An online event provided valuable insights into leveraging the power of Canva for food and drink businesses, equipping participants with the tools to enhance their marketing strategies and visual content creation.

Meet the Producers:
Hosted by STEP in partnership with Forth Valley Food and Drink, the Meet the Producers event celebrated the richness of locally sourced produce and its potential to elevate businesses.

almost fifty attendees were treated to an array of gastronomic delights at the ‘Tasting Tables’ event, where they had the opportunity to sample various local flavours from nine esteemed producers and explore opportunities to incorporate these products into their own businesses.

The event catered specifically to trade professionals including buyers, resellers, stockists, and wholesalers, offering them the chance to engage directly with local suppliers, hear from industry speakers, and experience firsthand the quality and diversity of regional offerings.

Some of the standout producers showcased at the event included:

  • Grace Chocolates: Renowned for luxury chocolates with a purpose, empowering women through artisanal creations.
  • Stacey’s Designer Cakes: A journey of passion and perfection in cake decorating, offering exquisite designs and delectable flavours.
  • CollyMoon Craft Gin: A testament to family dedication and artisanal craftsmanship, each sip telling a story of dedication and joy.
  • The Golden Bottom Bakery: Creators of artisan granola crafted with wholesome ingredients and homemade goodness, perfect for premium breakfast options.
  • Foragers Foods: Experience the essence of central Scotland with a range of artisanal food and drink products reflecting a commitment to quality and local sourcing.
  • Ochil Fudge: Authentic, hand-beaten fudge and tablet with over 25 distinctive flavours, elevating customer experiences with award-winning sweetness.
  • Farrah’s Dairy Ltd: A family-owned dairy farm delivering fresh whole milk alongside a delightful selection of flavored milkshakes and handmade gelato.
  • Io Fibre Water: Chicory root fibre-infused water designed to enhance gut health, offering a wellness-focused beverage option for businesses.
  • Stirling Coffee: Crafted blends sourced from the world’s finest estates, narrating unique stories with each sip and enhancing businesses in the café, restaurant, hotel, or retail industry.

The Meet the Producers event not only showcased the exceptional quality of locally sourced produce but also fostered valuable connections and collaborations, highlighting the importance of supporting regional producers and promoting sustainability within the industry.

As we wrap up the month, the sense of collaboration and support among the food, drink and tourism industry persists. If you have any feedback or ideas for the 2025 Food, Drink Industry Business Support Month, we’d love to hear from you!

Get in touch at marketing@stepscotland.co.uk. With a dedication to championing local businesses and fostering talent, we eagerly anticipate further success and innovation in our dynamic food, drink, and tourism landscape.



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