Lynsey Gordon is Category Manager at Scotland Excel, Scotland’s Centre of Procurement Expertise for Local Government.

“Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight is encouraging the industry to showcase and celebrate its #scotfoodgoals. At Scotland Excel one of our goals is to ensure as much homegrown Scottish produce as possible is procured through the local authority contracts we oversee.

Having worked in national food procurement at Scotland Excel for many years – food is a topic very close to me and I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken to increase Scottish produce on our contracts.

Our food portfolio includes milk, meats, frozen foods and groceries, and is worth a collective £70m a year. It helps councils source the products served up in schools, nurseries, care homes and community centres across the country.

There are lots of drivers affecting council food procurement, including the goal to procure modern, nutritious and tasty meals for pupils. This is an area we work very hard on.

Not only is 2018 the Year of the Young Person, it is also Scotland Excel’s tenth anniversary year.

Over the last decade, we’ve led the way in public food procurement and pushed our portfolio to deliver value, and quality produce for councils, while also creating wider benefits for Scotland’s economy.

Locally-sourced produce has become an increasing priority for councils, so we stepped up our role to make sure our food contracts are more accessible to Scottish businesses. We want to do what we can to make sure the power of public spending is used to boost Scotland’s economy.

Across our food portfolio, spending by councils on Scottish products has continued to rise. Over the past three years, it has increased from £8.8m to £10.9m.  Not only is this approach good for Scottish businesses, but it’s helping to create a greener Scotland by reducing food miles.

We’ve taken creative steps to achieve this. To include more Scottish produce in our groceries contract for yoghurt, butter, cheese, and margarine we included a secondary price list within the tender to allow suppliers to offer Scottish products.

As a result, a range of Scottish products are now available for councils.  And by switching their cheese to a Scottish product, local authorities have generated £1.1m of business for the Scottish cheese sector.

To bring more Scottish produce onto our meats framework, while still being in line with EU procurement regulations, we specifically asked for Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb by including Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) in our tender.

And when developing our current frozen food contract, we gave suppliers the opportunity to bid to supply food only to create opportunities for smaller companies that didn’t have national delivery logistics in place.  As a result, an Aberdeenshire business secured a place to supply Scottish haddock which has created the potential for £1m of new business for this small company.

We’ve achieved a lot in ten years. In 2016, I participated in the Eating City Campus in France – an international initiative to promote sustainability in food chains and food industries.  I was proud to be asked back last year to speak about our achievements in Scotland and pass on our experience to European and American delegates.

Looking ahead to the future there are, of course, areas nationally where the sector can evolve. An increase in the production of Scottish chicken would go some way in helping to meet the current demand within the public sector for locally sourced poultry.

Scotland Excel will continue to work hard to raise the bar in food procurement. As well as creating more opportunities for Scotland’s food sector, we want to build on our achievements in healthy eating by doing what we can to bring more healthy products onto school menus.

This is, and will continue to be, a key motivation for me to make sure that we’re getting it right for these children, through our frameworks.

Scotland Food and Drink Fortnight is an excellent way to celebrate our achievements, share our innovation and look ahead to more progression.

And as Scotland Excel celebrates its tenth anniversary, I’m proud to say our food portfolio’s achievements reach far beyond what appears on plates.  It’s had a positive impact on Scotland’s economy and on our communities.”