Nine food and drink businesses from two areas of the Highlands and Islands are taking part in a pilot project which offers customised advice on promoting their products.
The project set up by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has targeted a range of large and small companies keen to work with top marketing experts.
Businesses involved in the pilot are based in Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross and in Caithness and Sutherland, and include:
Sleepy Hollow Smokehouse, Aultbea
Kinloch Lodge, Sleat, Isle of Skye
Great Glen Game, Roy Bridge
Caithness Beef and Lamb, Wick
Loch Laxford Shellfish, Scourie, Sutherland Salar Smokehouse, through Loch Duart, Sutherland
Each will select an aspect of their individual business to develop and will work confidentially with a highly experienced marketing consultant. Topics they may focus on include packaging, pricing points, and access to or dealing with buyers.
Russell Ferguson Marketing, which has almost 25 years experience in business, is delivering the project for HIE.
“The people in the Highlands and Islands who start businesses usually have a passion for the food and the integrity of its production. This project is designed to help them identify new opportunities and take advantage of them,” said managing director Russell Ferguson.
He added: “Companies which get the best sales are those which know how to position themselves in the market. They often promote themselves not just to trade but to their consumers. We want businesses to be ambitious. There are many excellent products selling at market price when they could be promoted and sold at premium rates. Just because you are physically remote doesn't mean you can't sell.”
Businesses involved have attended an initial group workshop, will now work one to one with their own consultant and will then complete the project with a 'learning journey'. This could be a trade event or a meeting with buyers.
Gerry McGuigan, senior development manager for food and drink at HIE, hopes that if successful the project can be extended. “HIE hopes this pilot gives businesses essential knowledge and the opportunity to think about how they could break into new markets. The Highlands and Islands create many unique products – either in terms of what they are producing, or because of the quality of ingredients. We want to see businesses expand into new markets and to get the best value from the individual stories they have to tell.”