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Marine / Big opportunities for food and drink sector

A marketplace focusing on the isles’ seafood has been suggested.

Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND should do more to tap into an increasing global interest in its food and drink sector, according to a new study.

The research, commissioned by the Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation, was undertaken to explore whether a seafood marketplace similar to ones found in cities like Bergen and Copenhagen was viable in the isles.

Consultants found that any marketplace would need the support of a range of businesses and organisations, with a number of potential models mooted – with both public and private sector involvement possible.

There was also a recommendation that while Lerwick was the “obvious” location for a marketplace, consideration should be given to “out-of-Lerwick activities” too.

It had been suggested that a possible marketplace could also include retail space, a food hall and a cook school.

The findings of the report – which was backed financially by the European Maritime & Fisheries Fund – was launched in Lerwick this evening (14 March).

More generally, it noted an increasing global interest in Shetland’s food and drink, with visitors keen to seek out “high quality” produce.

Cruise ship passengers, meanwhile, are looking for different experiences, the study noted.

The consultants said there are also opportunities for individual companies to “innovate in their own businesses to take advantage of the increased demand for food tourism offerings”.

It is hoped that the study will spark fresh dialogue on how Shetland’s produce can be promoted better.

“Shetland’s food and drink sector is flourishing, with more and more entrepreneurial start-ups coming through,” Shetland Fishermen’s Association policy officer Sheila Keith commented.

“It felt like the perfect time to take a look at what might be possible moving forward. It’s in all our interests to better promote and market Shetland produce.

“If this report can be a catalyst for more collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurship in the sector, then it will have achieved its aims.”

Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Brian Isbister, meanwhile, highlighted that the local food and drink sector is by far the isles’ most profitable industry.

“Despite that, we still have a long way to go in terms of properly showcasing what Shetland produces, as well as tapping into the growing demand for food and drink with great provenance,” he said.

“There is so much more that Shetland can do to make the most of the potential of our industry. As one of the biggest organisations in the sector, we are delighted to be shining a light on what the opportunities for Shetland might be.”

The study was carried out by SAC Consulting, which undertake desk research, telephone interviews and online surveys.

It spoke to industry bodies, key agencies and food and drink producers, while feedback from last year’s Taste of Shetland pop-up shop on Lerwick’s Commercial Street was also taken into account.