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Food and drink group secures funding

SHETLAND Food and Drink has secured over £85,000 of funding to increase the profile of local produce and allow it to appoint its first paid staff member.

The organisation, which was informally set up in 2016, runs the popular Taste of Shetland festival.

Over £31,000 of the funding has come from the EU sponsored LEADER programme, while Shetland Islands Council has contributed £23,981 and Highlands and Enterprise has stumped up £21,000.

Shetland Food and Drink chairwoman Marian Armitage said the money would be used to make the organisation self-sufficient and more “commercially-driven” in promoting its members’ produce.

On the agenda is recruiting a manager, creating a website with an online shop, making a promotional film and producing signs, barriers and point of sale materials for retailers.

“Our three-year plan focuses on two areas: promoting locally-produced food and drink within Shetland; and taking Shetland’s produce and promoting it outside of Shetland,” Armitage said.

“Both activities are equally important, so expect so see more SFAD events throughout the calendar in Shetland.

“We are also keen to help get producers south to some of the trade and public-facing shows, as well as being a one-stop shop for people interested in Shetland’s produce – whether it be public enquiries or discussions with distributors and retailers.”

Director Valerie Johnson added: “There is currently no group representing and promoting the full range of Shetland food and drink. That means there is no cohesive voice, no cohesive promotion and no central body for producers and the public.

“This not only has negative impacts within Shetland, it limits the ability of the sector to engage both within and outwith Shetland. SFAD is bridging this gap.”

She said the organisation was currently in the process of developing a new membership package that would allow not only food producers to join, but any company or individual interested in local food and drink.

Meanwhile, this year’s Taste of Shetland cooking challenge is now open for entries.

The competition, which sees local food-lovers go head to head in a culinary battle, first took place at the food fair last year.

The winner of this year’s event will bag return flights for two people to Edinburgh, an overnight stay in the Malmaison Hotel in Leith and a six-course tasting menu with matching wines at Restaurant Martin Wishart with champagne on arrival, coffee and hand-made petits fours and a visit to the kitchens.

Entrants need to email their entry to ToSCookingChallenge@uhi.ac.uk before the closing date of midnight on Thursday 10 August.

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021