Innovation – Ingredients for success

As a parent I liked to think I have instilled a sense of healthy eating to my children and I am immensely proud of them both. I recall my son at the age of 6 announced loudly at a friend’s house, I can’t drink this juice… it contains 38% sugar. His sister however counters his choices big time by spending her ballet money and then some on cupcakes at the school bake sale and stashing cake sprinkles under her pillow for later. I can’t win them all.

On the whole we are becoming much more diverse and demanding consumers, our choices driven by parental and peer influences, by our consciousness for our own well-being.

Where does that leave the Scottish producer who is already battling the elements, with BREXIT, exchange rates, unprecedented rises in butter prices, the living wage, the challenges and uncertainties continue.

What’s a fad, and what’s a fundamental shift, how do you know the difference? Brits have forked out an extra £230m on free-from food and drink in the past year. That’s a rise of more than 40%, but where to do you go for help in deciding where the innovation in your business should be focused?

We are in danger of spiralising like butternut spaghetti with the plethora of support, of which there is abundance.

Introduce the new Make Innovation Happen Service (MIH) which provides an industry focus streamlined front door for businesses to engage with specialists in the sector. There are several strands to the new service.

Firstly, there are Innovation Connectors, real people on hand to help businesses to transform their vision to a commercial reality by match making them to the right help at the right time.

Knowledge is power, and in food and drink market intelligence is the magic ingredient. . Sitting alongside the Innovation Connectors is Market Insights delivered by Scotland Food and Drink and the Scottish Agricultural Organisational Society. An incredibly disciplined and methodical approach to assessing the market, with a huge focus on primary research, the service collates and assesses a broad
range of data and funnels to a state that adds value to businesses.

At the recent Make Innovation Happen for Food and Drink held in Inverness we were inspired by the speakers. Allene Bruce, New Nutrition Business was able to provide an insight into key trends in food, nutrition and health. A key take way for me was that a valuable route to success is to take traditional products and reinvent them into modern and convenient forms. Magnus Houston, Director of Fishbox shared his experience of using expertise from Strathclyde University to develop an algorithm which has allowed him to scale up his business and he now sells direct to over 1800 customers, offering a convenient, nutritious and fun way to eat sustainable fish and seafood. Matthew Pauley, Assistant Professor at the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University, with more than a decade of distilling to his name entertained us with his tale of working in collaboration with a group of Fruit Farmers to create a strawberry liqueur from berry waste. As an added bonus we also learned a thing or two about the Spotted Wing Drosophila and the potential impact of this newly established pest.

Innovation enables businesses to respond to an industry opportunity or challenge. What if we are all trying to do the same thing at the same time? A new £650k Collaboration Fund exists within MIH. This bi-annual competition is for groups of businesses within the food and drink sector who want to work together to create transformational difference.

Whether an innovate idea around the use of existing technology in a new setting or novel way; the adaptation of technology; the introduction of new processes or products; or entry into new markets, this three year fund will support businesses across the supply chain, from farm to fork and from sea to shelf to develop transformational ideas. If you feel you need some additional support there is always the potential to work with an academic partner to support your project.

As a final word, inspired by the recent event and my favourite TV show and I’m off to the kitchen with my children to invent my own offering to snackification, a Turmeric infused cauliflower cookie lightly dusted with ruby chocolate and seaweed, it will of course be naturally sugar free.

Further information on the new Make Innovation Happen service can be found at


Caroline Maclellan is an Innovation Specialist at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, a key funder with Scottish Enterprise in the New Make Innovation Happen (MIH) service for the food and drink sector. 

Scottish Enterprise will be at our next event: Ambition and Innovation: The future of food and drink in Scotland. Book your tickets here.