Scotland’s food and drink industry is going from strength to strength.


By Russell Bruce

Yet some idiots want to brand it as ‘British’

While the so-called big supermarkets try to find value in merging, taking over other businesses and selling off the loss making bits – two German companies are building increased market share in Scotland and across Europe.

Universally, in the way the Brits articulate their frustration, they label them ‘discounters’ and fail to understand how their branding is closely allied to the countries they have established themselves in as major and expanding players.

My wife and I have shopped in Lidl in Portugal and Greece as well as in Scotland. Portuguese branches of Lidl promote Portuguese products strongly in store and their Greek supermarkets, Greek products. So it is in Scotland and they are investing heavily in the promotion of their own label Scottish branding as well as other well-established Scottish produce and brands on their shelves.

If you want to sell in other countries you need to make connection. ‘British’ just does not do it in Scotland. If you want to sell in different markets it is essential to understand each market. The appeal of Lidl and Aldi is not just down to price and quality competiveness but because they understand how customer experience and connection works.

from Aldi’s jam selction

Lidl and Aldi are expanding with increased footfall in existing stores and have ambitious programmes opening more branches. Mergers and poor performance are forcing closures in UK based competitors. Messing around with ‘British’ branding, outside England, is not a clever ploy.

Scotland is at the forefront of food and drink production. It accounts for one in five of all manufacturing jobs, employing over 115,000 people. The industry is worth £14 billion to the Scottish economy and is a major export earner

The Scottish Government has been working with the industry to build a focus on key markets, boost innovation, address skills needs and support local producers to realise plans to double the value of the industry to £30 billion by 2030.

Marks & Spencer: A sandwich with a bitter filling

With companies, like failing Marks and Spencer, who have just announced the closure of

Lidl’s Aberdoyle dairy products range

100 stores, backing ‘British’ branding – British whisky being an especially stupid example, it is easy to understand their sense of vulnerability.

As Guardian Business reports, Marks and Spencer is in trouble. Profits are falling and their food offering is losing ground because it is too expensive. And guess who has picked off their former niche products – Lidl and Aldi. No company closes one third of its stores and can pretend all is well.

The FT described Marks and Spencer market announcements as a sandwich. A slice of good news with a bitter filling enclosed in another slice that sounded like all was well.

Scotland has strong brands

And unlike Marks and Spencer, Scotland’s food and drink sector is showing strong growth. Brands built by investment in quality products by Scottish companies. Others invest on a collaborative basis, like the brands from Quality Meat Scotland. It is Scotland, not Britain, which features in their promotional campaigns.

There is an orange fizzy drink with a humorous approach to its Scottish identity.

Pick of Scotland

Say no more, you all know what it is called. Few products have that degree of brand recognition or association. Scotland is the only country in the world where Coca Cola is knocked off the top seller list by a home nation soft drink producer.

It is not just a question of the Scottish market. Our food and drink producers are building market share abroad – 41% of Scotland’s food and drink products are exported to EU countries.

A bad British Brexit will create havoc for our food processors. Especially the lucrative shellfish sector.

Consumers have power

James Withers, chief executive of Food and Drink Scotland was reported in the Scotsman in May last year – ‘Every time a UK minister says no [Brexit trade] deal is better than a bad deal, alarm bells ring in the food industry”.

It is not Newsnet’s job to promote individual supermarkets. But it is part of our role to get behind Ruth Watson’s ‘Keep Scotland the Brand’ and The National’s ‘Save Scotland the Brand’ campaigns because that is how we protect Scottish jobs and exports. Keep Scotland the Brand leaflets are available here

The circle is justified in encouraging people to shop in Lidl and Aldi stores strongly

Aldi’s Kingdom brand Empire biscuits Made in Scotland

supporting Scottish food branding. Their shelves do include some ‘British’ branded produce as well, but we can make a choice, when practical.

Companies are responsible to shareholders not the wishes of the British government and the arrogant Mrs May. A backlash will see the political imposition of British branding disappear in Scotland and a lesson not lost on other UK supermarkets.

As consumers we have power. The power to support our food and drink industry and the employment supported from primary production in farming and fishing to the processors and manufacturers the length and breadth of Scotland. We cannot maintain and grow exports if we do not protect a strong home market.

Making branding fun

Britain’s reputation has slumped across Europe in the wake of Brexit and association with May’s bitterly divided government whose strategies for future trade with Europe are shrouded in ideas of mysterious complexity. That in turn gets reflected on British branding. Much better for Scotland to ensure we continue to build strong brand identity.

Scotland depends on free trade flows to support our growing export economy. The

Lidl’s fun day – Magician on stilts

reintroduction of customs declarations and lengthy waits at ports will devalue fresh produce whilst increasing costs in a very competitive market. The 41% of our food and drink exports to Europe will not be replaced by UK trade deals years away.

In the last week my wife and I have shopped in both Lidl and Aldi. As these photographs show both stores are promoting Scottish branding heavily. Lidl’s Scottish brand campaign has entered a new phase with special fun days promoting their Scottish stores through activity days that include face painting and a magician on stilts to promote consumer engagement.

Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco were never this much fun.

Once upon a time Britain strove to promote a sense that Scottish, Welsh or Irish identity was part of the British package. It was but a veneer and the veneer has been ripped off..

We will always buy goods from south of the border, whether branded British or English, because that is part of a healthy trading relationship. What we should not support are companies complicit in subsuming strong Scottish branding into British branding.

These boots are made for walking.

Disclosure: ayeMail, distributors of pro-independence material, including Keep Scotland the Brand leaflets, is run by my son Lindsay Bruce.


  1. Our signal totemic product whisky is foreign owned. Rebranding as British is but the logical outcome. The German owned supermarkets seem sensitive to Scottish sensibilties as to origin, more than can be said of Tunnock among others.
    Brexit will undoubtedly lead to the heavy patriotic marketing of British and UK branding. We are not in a good position, that is without independence, to deal with that.
    Many are of the view that the SNP has not used the time since the independence referendum very wisely and has allowed exploitable opportunities, eg the 56 mps at Westminster, to slip blithely by.

    • “Many are of the view that the SNP has not used the time since the independence referendum very wisely and has allowed exploitable opportunities, eg the 56 mps at Westminster, to slip blithely by.”

      What would you have them do?

      Shout louder, lie, scream at others and change position weekly, just like Davidson?

      I think they are in an impossible position, in some way I think Sinn Fein have the right approach to westminster, boycott it. They know their attendence will not make a difference and it lends legitimacy to English Rule in the North of Ireland.

      One of the reasons May held the early election was that she wanted to reverse the SNP rise whereas in truth she stalled it temporarily and the new dawn for tories in Scotland has ended.

      Not having a go at you personally, but can you tell me one parliamentarian you are impressed with when they speak, any party, I can think of one, Mhairi Black.

      I do not see westminster as an active democratic parliament, it is a museum where people muster to ask questions where everyone knows the reply will not answer the question and a political sound bite will try to be made. It’s pure farce!

      My original question was “What would you have them do?”, perhaps it should be “Why would you send them there?”

      As for labelling on food and drink, part of the power grab is to place the butcher’s apron on anything and everything from whisky to salmon! That to me would reduce its viability in the EU market, why buy Scotch when you could buy Irish, why buy Scottish Salmon when you could buy Norwegian.

      I expect the high heid yins in the SNP know what’s coming down the line post brexit in so much as it will be bad and soaked in unhealthy british nationalism!

  2. I shop at Lidl and it certainly has always promoted Scottish produce, as well as its themed Italian and Greek seasons. In recent weeks the Scottish bit seems to have disappeared slightly in the branch I use. On Friday however, they had strawberries branded with the Union Jack and described as ‘Good, honest British Food’s… grown in Fife!
    I don’t think it would be wise to extrapolate from one branch and apply it across all their branches though. The one I use seems to have other problems which may be management related. But still…
    Immigration, or lack thereof, may also adversely affect sections of the Scottish food industry e.g. soft fruit picking and fishing industry in particular shellfish on the west coast.
    Channel 4 News did a report recently on Barra and it’s shellfish industry. Alex Thomson was the reporter. The fishing boats based around Barra depend heavily on foreign crews – and yes they have tried to recruit locally. Most of the crewmen come from the Phillipines but they are having trouble getting visas. There is a shellfish processing plant on Barra which is the biggest employer on the island. It has recently expanded thanks to a grant from the EU but no crews for the boats means no fish for the plant and no jobs for the locals and all because of the It’s immigration policy.

    So it is not just branding that can adversely affect the Scottish Food industry.

  3. If there are similar Scottish and British branded products on the shelf, I will reach for the Scottish every time.
    “British” and “food” just don’t go together, unless it’s marmite you’re trying to market. That is something exporters have understood for a long time.


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