Building bridges in Edinburgh

Julie Dunn, SWA president and ops director of Dunns Food and Drinks

RAISING the profile of foodservice within the wholesale industry and promoting careers in the sector were two of the issues brought into focus at inaugural wholesale networking event, Bridging the Gap.

Organised by the Scottish Wholesale Association (SWA), the event brought together wholesalers, suppliers and key industry figures in Edinburgh to discuss the opportunities and issues facing the industry.

Speakers included Jon Mack of Bidfood Scotland, Jim Rowan of Dunns Food and Drinks and Marc Crothall of the Scottish Tourism Alliance.

Mack highlighted a number of issues facing wholesalers, which he said are operating in a competitive area at a time of rising costs and a shrinking skills base.

Meanwhile, Rowan of Dunns Food and Drinks highlighted the foodservice sector’s contributions to the economy; he put Scotland’s share of the £10.3 billion foodservice market at £1bn, adding that it employs 3000 people and supports 30,000 further jobs indirectly.

But he said wholesalers had to ‘speak up’ on key issues affecting the industry, including the apprenticeship levy, changes to business rates and the Living Wage and a shortage of chefs and drivers.

He warned that if they did not, the industry “will remain toothless and invisible – and fail to attract and retain the talent we need to remain competitive”.

Crothall of the Scottish Tourism Alliance highlighted the growth in tourism as an opportunity for wholesalers and suppliers – pointing to research which suggests that inbound tourist spend on food could hit £6 billion by 2020; he added that authentic and local food will be ‘paramount’ for visitors to the country.

SWA president Julie Dunn said the primary aim of the group is “to raise the profile of foodservice in wholesale; we are also working very hard to sell the wider wholesale industry as a clear career destination choice”.