Harris Distillers in Paris

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of attending a special ‘Scottish Islands’ themed St Andrew’s Day event in Paris. I was delighted to help showcase some of the amazing food and drink produced in our region.

The event, which was organised by the Scottish Government and Scottish Development International (SDI), attracted more than 350 guests from across the French food and drink industry including premium buyers, distributors, chefs and journalists. The event plays an important role in raising awareness of the diversity, quality and provenance of our region’s products.

Around 20 food and drink businesses from the Scottish islands took part including Isle of Harris Distillers, Bakkafrost, The Island Bakery, Orkney Cheese and Isle of Skye Sea Salt.

France remains the largest Scottish food export market, valued at £666m in 2021 and up £207m(45%) from the previous year. New figures released by the Scotch Whisky Association August this year show France as the largest export destination by volume of whisky with 88m bottles sold in the first half of 2023. The country is also the largest market for Scottish salmon with sales worth £305m and 53% of all Scottish salmon exports.

Businesses from our region that attended, showcased their products and offered samples. Other companies sent us a selection of products, which I and my colleagues from SDI and Scotland Food and Drink were able to display and talk to guests about.

Many businesses from our creative industries also displayed their wares in the sumptuous surroundings of the Ambassador’s Residence, including Harris Tweed Hebrides, Johnstons of Elgin, The Highland Soap Company and Skyeskyns.

Guests arrived to the sound of a bagpiper and enjoyed a cocktail of North Uist Distillery’s Downpour gin on arrival. This was followed by a delicious menu of savoury and sweet canapes served by students from Le Cordon Rouge that included Label Rouge Salmon gravlax style and shortbread with whisky cream. Chefs, including Craig Wilson, the Kilted Chef, demonstrated their skills and cooked up a feast using West coast langoustines marinated in Isle of Harris gin and scallops with Stornoway black pudding. 

Our host Dame Menna Rawlings, British Ambassador to France and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, Mairi Gougeon addressed the audience and toasted the occasion after a display of Highland dancing. There was a great buzz throughout the evening and it seemed everyone made the most of the opportunity to make new contacts and strengthen existing relationships.  

The event was a great success and the feedback from guests was incredibly positive. I look forward to seeing more Scottish products on the shelves in French supermarkets and served in restaurants soon.

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