A new report could provide the “catalyst” for a marketplace which could showcase local produce.
That was the view of industry figures following the completion of a study carried out by the Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation (SFPO).
Results of that feasibility study, which explored the viability of a seafood (and wider food and drink) marketplace in the isles, were highlighted at an event at Lerwick Town Hall yesterday evening.
Paid for through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and conducted by food and drink specialists SAC Consulting, the study considered the creation of a centre showcasing local food and drink. This could include a retail space, eatery and cook school.
It is hoped that the findings will provide a starting point for discussion of how to develop such an asset.
The report highlighted opportunities in food tourism, providing experiences for cruise ship passengers and tapping into a growing demand for high-quality food and drink.
Shetland Fishermen’s Association policy officer Sheila Keith said: “We initiated this feasibility study after witnessing what other countries do to promote their seafood and food and drink industries to their communities and beyond. Shetland’s food and drink sector is flourishing, with more and more entrepreneurial start-ups coming through.
“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.”
SFPO chief executive Brian Isbister said: “The food and drinks industry in Shetland is bigger than any other industry in these islands, exceeding the value of oil, gas, agriculture, and tourism combined.
“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.”
Shetland Food and Drink chairwoman Marian Armitage said: “We know from our experiences from the Taste of Shetland Pop-up last summer that there is a healthy and growing demand for local produce from both Shetlanders and visitors.
“There is an opportunity not only to connect with visitors while they are here – even if that time is limited – but to stay connected with them when they return home. Any activities which make it easy to access local produce within and outwith Shetland have to be a good thing for the sector.”
The consultants used a combination of desk research, online surveys and telephone interviews as background to conduct the study. They also spoke to industry bodies and food and drink producers of all sizes. Feedback from last summer’s Taste of Shetland pop-up shop was also included.