Food and drink businesses on the Isle of Bute are working together to boost the sector’s prospects on the island.
Social enterprise, Bute Kitchen, is one of 19 regional food groups across Scotland. It currently has 31 members, including farmers and smallholders growing and producing crops, dairy and livestock, as well as cheese makers and butchers using premium local ingredients.
The group secured £20,000 COVID recovery support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) for a project to strengthen skills among the island’s hospitality workforce, explore local markets for food produced on the island and promote the Bute ‘brand’ to new audiences.
While the past two years have brought many challenges for rural producers, there have also been some unexpected positive impacts. For example, travel restrictions resulted in local residents doing more local shopping, which boosted sales and created new interest in food provenance, a trend reflected across the UK.
Bute Kitchen has been working with its members on projects to capitalise on these changes in customer demand and interest.
With HIE’s funding, the group is working with Springboard Scotland, Developing Young Workforce, Skills Development Scotland and Rothesay Academy to deliver a series of digital and face-to-face courses to upskill workers.
Half of the 24 participants will be from Rothesay Academy. They will learn the practical employment skills required by local hospitality businesses to give them valuable work experience. At the same time, this will help tackle the shortage of hospitality workers on the island.
Also taking part will be staff from Bute coffee shops, ice cream parlour, pubs and brewery - who haven’t yet had formal training - as well as other islanders looking to retrain.
Bute Kitchen is using the HIE funding to finance other activities as well, including influencer events in Glasgow and Edinburgh to promote the quality and variety of Bute produce to new audiences. And there is also a project exploring the viability of increasing sales of Bute-reared beef and lamb through the island’s hospitality business.
Morag Goodfellow, HIE’s area manager for Argyll and the Islands area, said: “Regional food groups like Bute Kitchen are important to the sector’s recovery and future growth. They represent a wide range of businesses that have been hard hit over the past couple of years. Our Regional Food Groups grant fund helped these groups to identify and deliver projects that will make the biggest difference to their members. I am very pleased we were able to provide support to Bute Kitchen.”