Will Scotland’s growth in foodies offer new territory for brands?

Scots have never been known for their healthy diets, with delicacies such as Irn-Bru, pints of ‘heavy’ and ‘pizza crunch’ – deep fried pizza for the uninitiated – not doing much to change the age old perception.

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But according to research consultancy Kantar Worldpanel the healthy eating gap between that north and south of the border is closing, as outlined in our trends feature in this week’s magazine.

The study reveals that more than 19% of Scots say that health is a primary reason for choosing food to eat at home (up 2% from 2008), compared to 21% of people in England and Wales.

And there’s some additional results in the report that are particularly interesting. Surprisingly, the average spends per shopper on fruit and vegetables are now greater in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. Also the research reveals that Scots spend more of their cash on organic foods that their English counterparts. It seems that the desire to eat healthily may actually be backed up by spending patterns.

It’s a trend that’s already been jumped on by a number of organisations, who have recently launched new events in the country for the emerging wave of foodies. Last month Slow Food UK launched its Scottish wing of the Slow Food UK’s Chef Alliance, which, with the support of Highland Park whisky, aims to rally the nation’s chefs around its values of commitment to the environment and local communities. The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh has also tapped into the trend, launching a new food festival at the end of the month dedicated to the science behind gastronomy.

But what opportunities are there for brands wanting to capitalise on this drive for healthier lifestyles and fresh produce? Catering specifically for the Scottish market is nothing new, with UK retailer Asda developing 22 Chosen By You own-label products and packaging especially for Scotland at the end of last year due to customer demand. But perhaps it is brands that emphasise their foodie credentials and quality ingredients that will really do well in Scotland.

Italian chain Carluccio’s, for example, has thrived in Scotland after launching its first restaurant north of the border in Glasgow late last year. Fighting off fierce competition from Glasgow’s existing Scottish-Italian community, the combination of quality food and emphasis on provenance seems to have gone down well with the city’s trendy urbanites, and the brand has announced it is now looking to expand into Edinburgh and Aberdeen when suitable sites can be found.

As seen with Carluccio’s offer, value for money will also be a key concern for this market. The report reveals that 22% of Scots say that they are working to a tight budget when doing their weekly shop, and this regard for the pennies will no doubt translate into eating both at home and out. But with grocery spending up 2.9% to £9.2 billion in 2011, it is a market that retailers, restaurants and food brands ignore at their peril.

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