The new chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise Professor Lorne Crerar is hailing a Moray business as one of the area's unsung heroes.
At a meeting with Tio Ltd (This is Organics), a pioneering firm which is the exclusive supplier of organic carrots to Tesco in the UK, Lorne endorsed the view that Tio's success has been built on a foundation of innovation and collaboration.
Now based in Forres, but with its roots in a 100 year old farming business at Dalcross near Inverness, Tio was one of the first Scottish companies to enter the organic marketplace on a commercial basis. It grows over 80% of this produce on its own, and directly contracted, local farms.
Lorne commented: "I'm sure there are people who live nearby who have no idea of the national significance of this excellent Highlands and Islands business. Moray is home to some of the biggest brand names in the food and drink industry including Baxters and Walkers, and indeed we are celebrating whisky in the Speyside festival this week, so it is great to acknowledge that there are many additional world class businesses quietly working away in our communities."
Tio has been working with HIE for the past 12 years and has developed a business plan with ambitions to double sales in the next five to six years. By combining private and public investments, from HIE and the Scottish Government, the company has been developing new markets and has built a custom designed factory and extension to help meet demand.
"Tio has spent the last year looking closely at consumers' needs, developing its brand and is setting its sights on new markets and international opportunities. HIE is delighted to have been able to help strengthen its position with expert advice on export markets, manufacturing, research and development, and e-business," said Lorne.
The company has been on two recent trade missions to Germany, is actively pursuing opportunities in Ireland and is now exploring the Scandinavian market.
Tio Ltd Managing Director, Steve Ryan, said "HIE has been tremendously helpful to us over the past 12 years. As well as directly assisting with grant funding on a number of capital projects, their financial contribution enabled us to benefit from further funding from the EU. In addition, they have been very supportive in the ongoing development of the business by pointing us in the direction of the right support people and organisations and, where possible, helping with these costs too. Through working, in the main, with a single contact at HIE, I believe they have a genuine understanding of our business and where they can help."
Lorne commented: "HIE is involved in developing the right conditions for social and economic development in every part of the region. We know that business and community is at the heart of this development. HIE, under the leadership of chief executive Alex Paterson, wants to build on the closer connections we have created with a wide network of businesses, social enterprises and entrepreneurs who live and work here. By strengthening partnerships between the private, public and voluntary sectors we can work together to deliver projects which can make a real difference to our communities."