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Issue 3 - See it, tough it, hear it, smell it, taste it

Scotland Magazine Issue 3
July 2002


This article is 16 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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See it, tough it, hear it, smell it, taste it

Vivien Devlin appraises Scotland's massive contribution to the World economy - and while whisky, tartan and haggis play a part, there's much more

The new VisitScotland campaign is a particularly evocative phrase to woo people to experience Scotland. It also encapsulates the fine Scottish cuisine, drink and quality products which are exported to seduce the senses worldwide.

From tartan to technology, Loch Fyne Oysters to financial services, the Made in Scotland branding suggests professional quality based on tradition and expertise which is extremely competitive in a tough global retail market.

Scotch whisky – uisge beatha, the water of life – is Scotland’s major national asset and of vital importance to the UK economy. According to the Scotch Whisky Association the export market accounts for 90% of sales to 200 countries with a value of £2,295 million. Currently the most popular brand overseas is J&B, selling 6.5 million nine-litre cases last year. William Grant was one of the first distilleries to export malt whisky back in the 1960s, in particular the Glenfiddich single malt. Business has soared in recent years and William Grant is now placed 35th out of the top 100 British companies with the fastest-growing profits. But do you know which country consumes most Scotch whisky per person?

It may surprise you – the answer can be found at the end of this feature.

Across European bars today Scotch is seen as ultra-cool, exotic and very much a young person’s drink especially in Italy and Spain, a market now being carefully targeted with the creation of an alcopop citrus drink, J&B Twist. Not for the whisky connoisseur, one presumes. Overall, despite cheaper imitations or variations, Scotch sells nearly four times more than its nearest rival, whiskey.

Scotland’s other national drink is Irn-Bru, “made in Scotland from girders” as the adverts claim, enjoys an international market including the Irn-Bru Fan Club of Russia. The fizzy drink is an essential purchase by expatriate Scots desperate for a taste of home. A UK internet company,, was created two years ago to sell popular unobtainable food and drink overseas. The business really took off when British Embassies logged on to order Scottish products.

“The Scots are out there all over the world and it seems to me they run the Foreign office,” comments a bemused Simon Aldridge, Director of Expat Supplies. “They order Tunnocks biscuits, Irn-Bru, Walker’s shortbread and Macsween haggis with a passion.”

Macsween of Edinburgh began as a butcher’s shop almost 50 years ago and while the shop has gone, Macsween Haggis is practically a household name. Granddaughter of the founder Jo Macsween is now leading the company into a blossoming international market through Expat Supplies which has taken over the export side of the business. Sales of haggis rocket during the winter months for St. Andrew’s Day, Hogmanay and Burns Night yet, despite a limited season, 70,000lbs of Macsween haggis was exported over the past year – mainly to France but also, intriguingly, to Trinidad, the Maldives and Sudan.

There are an estimated 14 million American Scots with clan gatherings and Highland Games taking place annually across the United States but, due to the strict import regulations barring certain meat products, there’s no haggis, as yet, on the menu.

Meanwhile, for a true taste of Scotland smoked salmon is exported in huge quantities to the United States, Germany, France and Italy.
Inverawe Smokehouse, Argyll began over 20 years ago by Robert and Rosie Campbell who now employ 50 staff. The mail order business began by sending a brochure to family and friends, growing steadily to 30,000 customers and five catalogues a year. Inverawe has supplied Her Majesty the Queen with smoked foods and hampers for five years and was recently awarded a prestigious Royal Warrant.

The Loch Fyne Oyster Bar on the road to Inveraray is a popular pit-stop for hungry travellers. However a third of sales for this quality seafood business is exported to 22 countries worldwide. A Loch Fyne office has now opened in Brittany, France to promote French, Swiss and Italian orders and following an American road show, there’s now a New York agent dealing directly with wholesalers and restaurants.

The Far East is a major market with crates of 2,000 oysters flown out each week to Hong Kong. Oysters are also sent to Germany, Austria and Singapore, although smoked salmon remains the leading product with weekly exports averaging a mammoth 2,500kg. Christmas brings exceptional business when sales quadruple.

Tartan Day, 6 April, 2002, New York. Over 45 miles of tartan was worn by 10,000 pipers at the Tunes of Glory parade. Great attention was given to Sean Connery’s kilt and Mayor Bloomberg’s cap, both in the New York tartan. This new tartan, created by Lochcarron of Scotland, was presented to the Mayor from the people of Scotland representing a symbol of friendship. With a soft blend of blues and greens and two crossed black lines denoting September 11th, the New York tartan is now available for all to wear.

Lochcarron is regarded as the world’s largest manufacturer of authentic clan tartans, cashmere and knitwear of which 70% is export business. Products are ordered internationally from the Galashiels mill in the Scottish Borders through retail websites for Europe, Australasia and Japan as well as wholesale depots in Canada and the United States. “Yes, we are steeped in tradition and history,” says Tara Gibson, PR Director, “but we do not allow that image to compromise an innovative and contemporary approach to product design.”

Designers including Vivienne Westwood, Ralph Lauren, Jean Paul Gaultier (an habitual kilt-wearer) and the Burberry Company are regular clients to Lochcarron’s London office in Saville Row for a twice-yearly showcase of tartans, cashmere and natural fabrics. The success of Lochcarron is recognised by their Gold Award for Export Achievement, a prestigious honour presented by the British fashion industry.

Marketing sometimes works in mysterious ways. The film The 51st State stars Robert Carlyle and Samuel L Jackson, whose character wears a contemporary-styled Lochcarron kilt. He loved it: “It looked very cool you know. All of a sudden I had this whole sort of Gladiator thing going on.”

The popularity of his cinematic dress-sense prompted the creation of a new website in order to promote the kilt to the fashionable man of the 21st century.

Innovative Scottish fashion comes – literally – in every shape and size. A young Glasgow businesswoman Michelle Mone developed MJM International Ltd in November 1996 in order to design, manufacture and market the Ultimo Range of women’s underwear. When Julia Roberts wore an Ultimo Enhancing bra in her Oscar-winning film Erin Brockovich, the “revolutionary” gel-filled bra became a world fashion icon. It’s available in the United States exclusively to Saks Fifth Avenue or for purchase online. Michelle Mone – Entrepreneur of the Year and Great Scot of the Year, 2000 – continues to extend and improve the Ultimo collection of lingerie and swimwear.

The telephone, television, fax machine, photocopier and video were all invented in Scotland and technical acumen and expertise thrives today. Office machinery is Scotland’s leading export industry with annual sales valued at £8,092 million. The consistently high performance of many indigenous electronics and technology companies continues to make a significant impact on the Scottish economy.

PlayStation 2 is a Japanese creation but the number one game, Grand Theft Auto III – three million copies sold to date – is the brainchild of Scottish company DMA Design under Director Leslie Benzies. President of Rockstar Games New York, Sam Houser enthused: “The team in Scotland is made up of unique and truly talented individuals and the fact that Grand Theft Auto III has become the biggest-selling title ever in Germany, the UK and United States is a triumph.”

The Royal Bank of Scotland, founded in 1727, is Europe’s second-largest bank, ranks fifth in the world and has a leading Financial Services group. The growth has been a steep upward curve since 1990 with a series of bank takeovers in the UK and US. Today the RBS is a world player in financial markets, corporate, private and offshore banking, plus asset and project finance. 20,000 RBS employees work across Europe, in Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong and New York establishing and propagating major finance operations.

According to the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, the value of exports rose by over 6% between 1999 and 2001 to stand at £30.9 billion.

Scotland the Brand, the independent marketing organisation, works on behalf of 350 member companies to promote Scottish heritage, technology, tourism, heritage, food, drink and textiles at international events. During Tartan Week in Chicago this year they presented a Scotland the Brand showcase of contemporary Harris Tweed designs as well as corporate events to raise awareness of Scottish culture and quality food and drink. The distinctive StB tartan logo is used on members’ products to fly the Scottish flag.

The Royal Bank of Scotland claim that the key to their success in international business is based on a unique philosophy – a positive ‘can do’ attitude and an appetite for new business which can really make it happen.

‘Make it happen’ certainly seems to be the key phrase for exporting the best of Scotland today worldwide.