Since the beginning of the current contract in 2012, NorthLink Ferries have worked tirelessly to introduce as many local suppliers as possible; their local procurement mantra is for suppliers to be based within a 50-mile radius of operating areas. Here’s what they have to say about their commitment to locally sourced food and drink…


Logistics of sourcing local produce

Annual ‘meet the buyer events held in Orkney, Shetland, Caithness and Aberdeen City & Shire, allow us to see and sample new products and offerings from across our local area. We also receive emails from producers directly with new product ideas. Food networking events, such as those organised by Scotland Food & Drink, offer an avenue to meet local producers too.


Wholesalers J.W Gray & Co, based in Shetland, as well as Peterhead-based Strachans, are our main suppliers and often get in touch with new product suggestions which they think will fit our offering. Personal approaches are welcomed and encouraged, so if you ever see a member of the NorthLink Ferries team out and about and want to pass a product by us then please do! We also work alongside local organisations such as Opportunity North East which allow us to network in the local food and drink sector.


Appreciation of Local Produce by Passengers

With the growth of food tourism, people are now actively looking for locally and ethically sourced produce and we feel our efforts are appreciated by our passengers. For the past 5 years, we’ve held VisitScotland’s the Taste our Best award, recognising our conscious efforts to enhance the on-board experience with our local sourcing. However, paying attention to where our products come from isn’t unique to NorthLink Ferries; many organisations across Scotland are committed to quality Scottish sourcing and we hope many others do too. We’re proud to offer our passengers a taste of the Isles, North East and the Highlands on their journey to Orkney and Shetland. We’re also proud to have been shortlisted in the finals of the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards 2018 in the ‘Local Sourcing’ category.


NorthLink Ferries’ commitment to locally-sourced food and drink

Local food and drink is key to our commitment to support the communities in which we serve. It’s not solely about the food sourcing, but about supporting the local area, making those connections with island residents and engaging with them. We’re consistently striving to take it one step further; for example, we’re proud members of both Orkney Food and Drink and Shetland Food and Drink. This year will once again see us sponsor the bi-annual Orkney Master Chef competition which always attracts a large audience. Last year, we sponsored the ‘Peerie Bites’ competition in Shetland which saw young, budding chefs take to the stage in a live cook-off which then resulted in two dishes (one from each age group) being available on board our vessels.

Working closely with each of our suppliers to ensure their needs are being met, as well as our own, is vital. In the past few years we’ve offered discounted travel to those who attend trade shows, for example The Island Smokery (Orkney) and Shetland Reel Gin (Shetland) attended the biggest one day food fair in Scotland; Taste of Grampian. Aware of the costs of attending these shows, we’re delighted to be able to help.


#ScotFoodFort involvement

We’ve been involved in quite a number of Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight campaigns now,  and are always keen to get on board (pun, intended) and even won Gold for the best business engagement in the 2017 edition of the Fortnight.

The campaign has seen us committing to taking on new, niche products such as Buffalo Burgers and Shetland Mussels. Last year, we pledged to run a supplier showcase which entailed promoting different supplier every day of the Fortnight. This year, we’re taking that one step further and delving deeper into our suppliers, conducting interviews and publishing them across our social media sites and website. Also, for the first year ever, we’re running a fantastic competition to win a hamper filled with food and drink goodies, all sourced from within 50 miles of our ports and available to purchase on board our vessels! #ScotFoodFort is certainly embedded in our calendar.


What’s next

We’ll continue with our philosophy of sourcing within 50 miles of our operating ports, keeping up to date with Scotland Food & Drink’s strategies and enhancing our on- board offering. We have a large percentage of our produce currently being sourced locally but we are eager to increase it further in the years to come.

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