An Aberdeen-based transport provider has scooped a Gold award for its efforts at championing Scottish food and drink and supporting local producers.

NorthLink Ferries, which is operated by Serco and provides ferry routes to Orkney and Shetland from Caithness and the North East of Scotland, was crowned the winner of the Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight 2017 business challenge – an initiative which encouraged businesses of all shapes and sizes to change just one thing to promote Scottish produce during Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight 2017.

During the Fortnight, which ran from 2-17 September, the ferry operator introduced Shetland mussels onto their ferry menus for the first time, offering passengers the opportunity to taste a quality locally sourced product prepared to a high standard by their team.

The company also took the opportunity to promote their regular local suppliers, including Stockans Oatcakes, Orkney Brewery, Shetland Farm Dairies and award winning Shetland based social enterprise company Cope Ltd, who are their main sandwich supplier, whom NorthLink Ferries endorsed with the Fortnight’s day that was highlighting picnics.

Speaking at the official prize giving at the NorthLink Ferries terminal in Aberdeen, Fiona Richmond, Head of Regional Food at Scotland Food & Drink, said:

“Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight takes place every year and it’s a fantastic way of celebrating our growers, producers, chefs and restauranteurs, as well as our vast and delicious Scottish larder. NorthLink Ferries did a tremendous job of getting involved and really embraced the ethos of changing just one thing to promote Scotland’s food and drink, which is why they are receiving this Gold award.”

Seumas Campbell, Customer Service Director for Serco NorthLink Ferries, added: “We are extremely pleased to have received the award for our involvement in Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight 2017. The campaign is a great way of recognising the country’s fantastic range of suppliers and produce and we couldn’t think of anything better than joining in to showcase the contribution the North East, Caithness and the Northern Isles’ make to our menu options.

“Our passengers often comment on the great selection of fresh, locally sourced meals provided on board and with the introduction of Shetland mussels we offered a new element to the menu for the fortnight, alongside Shetland Lamb which has been a staple on our menus over the years. This gives us the opportunity to gauge whether or not a particular dish would be a hit on our menus and could add to our network of more than 40 of our food and drink suppliers that have a production centre or head office within a 50 miles radius of our operating ports.”

Meanwhile, the Silver business award went to food wholesalers Brakes, which has Scottish bases in Inverness, Oban, Dundee and Newhouse. Brakes used the Fortnight to launch a new Scotch Beef range and hold a cookery masterclass for their sales team which was judged by Masterchef professionals winner, Gary Maclean.

Insurance providers, NFU Mutual won the Bronze award for their excellent use of social media during the Fortnight. The company used Twitter, and the Fortnight’s hashtags, to urge their Scottish partners and agencies to participate in the Fortnight by changing one thing. The company’s Stathaven branch also ran a competition online, offering a hamper from Millers Larder, who make preserves and chutneys as the prize for the winner.

A highly commended award also went to insurance brokers Bruce Stevenson for their excellent efforts at promoting Scottish Food & Drink during the Fortnight.

Fiona continued:

“We wanted to do all we could to encourage food and drink business to support the ethos behind the Fortnight by changing one thing and getting their partners involved. It was challenging to choose our winners but they are all incredibly well deserved.

“We now look ahead to The Year of Young People in 2018 and are seeking inspirational young people with great food or drink stories to help us better tell the world about Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight when it comes around again next year.

“Please let us know what you are up to, or what a young person you know is contributing to the Scottish food and drink industry. We would love to hear from you.”