A TEN-STRONG delegation from Shetland’s burgeoning food and drink community are setting off for a fact-finding visit to neighbouring Orkney this weekend.
The trip has been organised by local industry body Shetland Food and Drink to see what can be learned from our Orcadian cousins, who boast a strong and long-standing track record for promoting their vast wealth of indigenous produce.
Shetland Food and Drink manager Claire White said the idea for the trip came about after she and Island Fish owner John Martin Tulloch were among the delegates on a Seafood Scotland-funded visit to Iceland shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic began.
That three-day tour was very enlightening for attendees and after sharing the findings back home it became clear that there was significant demand for a similar “learning journey” that some of Shetland Food and Drink’s 100+ members could participate in.
Claire said Orkney had long had a “remarkable and richly deserved reputation” for high quality produce, from its beef and seafood to its dairy, oatcakes, sweets and its world-renowned liquor.
“Orkney is among Scotland’s very best food and drink regions,” she said, “and they happen to be our nearest neighbours, so comparisons are inevitable.
“Our members are creating a fantastic and increasingly wide range of produce, but in Orkney they’ve been doing it for many years and we recognise there is lots we can learn: not only in terms of making great food and drink but also how best to market it to the wider world.
“We’re sure the trip will provide inspiration, food for thought, the possibility of new supply chains and trading relationships, and who knows what else.”
With support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the three-day trip to Orkney runs from Friday until Sunday and has been arranged by SFAD, which also organises the annual Taste of Shetland festival.
SFAD staff will be joined by representatives of businesses including Shetland Fishermen’s Association, The IslanFd Larder, Gremista Farm, Shetland Reel Gin, Whalsay Made and Bigton Community Shop.
Ten representatives of the Argyll & Bute food and drink industry will also participate in the trip.
The visit will take in a talk and tour at Eviedale Bakehouse, a visit to Barony Mill, a stop-off at Birsay Bay Tearoom, a look at the JP Orkney honesty box and a late afternoon stop at Orkney Roastery on Saturday.
Sunday’s itinerary will see the group take in an excursion to the Brig Larder, a tour of Jolly’s of Orkney focusing on the production of smoked salmon, an Orkney Cheese tour and an obligatory dram and tour of Highland Park, followed by a final outing at the Deerness gin and vodka distillery.
The Shetland delegation will also be sampling the dinner menus at The Lynnfield and Foveran hotels in Kirkwall during the trip.
Claire added: “We are relishing the chance for some of our members to see at first hand what’s going on down in Orkney, and we look forward to sharing the findings with everyone involved in the organisation later this year.”
Meanwhile, Friday sees the launch of Taste of Shetland’s interactive online guide for 2022, featuring a wealth of useful information about its 105 members. When it goes live on the Taste of Shetland website, users will be able to click directly through to member businesses’ websites.
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