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Back in 2014, the Scottish dairy industry faced some severe challenges in a difficult financial climate.
While Scotland is an excellent milk producing country, major processing of value added is, in the majority, European owned and exporting has been neglected.
Born out of Scotland Food and Drink’s last dairy review – Ambition 2025 – the Scottish Dairy Growth Board (SDGB) was formed and has been working with an agenda for growth over the past three years.
Having first assessed the processing capability at all levels within the industry, the board focused on international growth for longer life dairy products, primarily cheese, as the initial focus.
A processor group was formed to include those companies with the capability, capacity and technical certification required to meet entry level requirements in global markets, roughly split into the larger processors and the artisan cheesemakers.
With Scotland being largely unknown outside the UK as a cheese producing nation, the initial approach to international markets was one of learning and creation of awareness. Assessment of routes to market and implementing the necessary logistic partnerships were key preparatory steps, while market intelligence and targeting was undertaken in collaboration with Scottish Development International’s in-market specialists (SDI).
The learning phase demonstrated that Scotland does have products of interest to international markets where country of origin, brand story and unique points of difference are featured. These attributes have been of critical importance in opening the door to the priority target markets of cheese consuming nations such as in North America.
Of equal importance, however, has been the ability to offer a wide range of Scottish cheeses from multiple producers in a coordinated way, thereby enhancing the understanding and appreciation of the cheesemaking capability of the country and providing a coherent base upon which brand stories and specialities can be promoted.
The role of SDGB in providing international market knowledge, contacts, export experience, technical expertise, language capability, logistics expertise and sales and marketing credibility has been the key enabling factor in sparking growth across the Scottish cheese portfolio, working in collaboration with SDI in-market specialists.
This has resulted in market entry for Scottish dairy products not only in the initially identified target markets of USA, Canada, and Japan but also: France, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Singapore, UAE, Hong Kong, Australia with more to come.
In many of the above markets, the work of SDGB is now focused on market development and growth enhancement, with the clear potential to double Scottish cheese exports within the next two years.