My Column

An offal shame not to take a bite out of the US market

  • Date: Monday 6th February 2023
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My tastebuds were tingling following the culinary celebrations and delightful delicacies enjoyed across the nation during last month’s Burns festivities.


I was inspired to explore the ways in which Scottish flavours are leaving a sweet (or savoury) trail across the globe, and the impact this is having on the Scottish economy.


I’ve always championed Scottish businesses that aspire to perform on the global stage, and figures show there’s a hunger for international success among our key exporters.  In 2021, food and drink export from Scotland increased by 12 per cent, boosting the economy to £5.9billion.


The appetite to do business abroad is clear to see, especially when you consider figures released by Scottish Development International (SDI) and the Alibaba Group late last year, showing almost half of Scots believe exporting goods is a viable opportunity for growth. They also showed that, despite obvious challenges such as shipping costs, a quarter of Scottish businesses cited the United States as presenting the largest export opportunity for Scotland, with food and drink products leading the charge.


One iconic product that’s yet to conquer the US, however, is the humble haggis. It might be a staple of Scottish culture but it’s still outlawed in the US due to its inclusion of sheep lungs which was banned in a Bill introduced in 1971.


However, haggis giant Macsween is currently looking for a way to break through to this forbidden market. The group states there is a massive demand for haggis in foreign markets and is looking to bypass the ban by amending its recipe for an American audience, as well as pushing its vegetarian alternative version overseas.


Macsween has high hopes for the US following its success north of the border in Canada and estimates that as many as 30million US citizens have Scottish heritage, presenting a great opportumnity to tap into this massive market.


Of course, reinventing the wheel by completely revamping the recipe to fit the export market has huge cost implications. But owner James Macsween believes he can use the brand’s ‘strong position’ to crack the US – potentially opening the door to millions of first-time haggis fanatics.


If the plan comes together, Macsween believes that Americans could be tucking into Scotland’s finest as early as next year.


Haggis isn’t the only Scottish food staple making waves in the United States. Alongside whisky and Scottish confectionery such as shortbread and sweets (or ‘candy’ as our counterparts across the pond would say), another of our biggest exports comes from our waters.


Figures from 2021 show Scottish salmon sales were worth £760million to the nation’s economy, with export sales leaping to £641million thanks to a huge boost in US imports, growing even from pre-pandemic levels.


As well as salmon, Scottish seafood is adding extra flavour to the Scottish economy as one of its largest exports – second only to the whisky industry. An estimated 80 per cent of the 540,000 tonnes of seafood produce caught on Scottish shores reaches over 120 countries internationally, showing just how important a market this is for us.


And when we’re looking at the economic importance of this sector, it’s also important to remember the seafood industry is also a major employer, particularly in more rural parts of the country. So the international appeal of our produce means Scottish businesses and communities reap the rewards in a number of ways.


Going back to Macsween, I think that looking for creative ways to tap into markets that clearly already have an appetite for Scottish fare makes good business sense.  Our American cousins may think the current traditional haggis recipe is offal – but with a few tweaks I’m sure they’ll love it!



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Jeremy Hunt has got tongues wagging after announcing his bold plans to reinvigorate the economy. 


Hunt’s proposals include moving away from EU regulations and focusing on growth industries such as green energy and fintech, but one part of his speech that really stood out was the bit about getting over 50s back to work.


He said there are now almost 300,000 less people in employment than pre-pandemic, and in a bid to fill employment gaps and ease labour shortages, he issued a plea to those who retired early after the pandemic to return to the workplace.


Right now around five million working-age Brits currently choose not to work.  Hunt claims this is ‘an enormous and shocking waste of talent and potential’.


I have to admit this line really irked me.  If some people have made the choice to retire early and enjoy their lives free of work-induced stress, good for them.  It’s not the government’s place to tell people who might have put in 30 or 40 years of hard graft to get back to work, in order to dig them out of an economic hole.


Some have chosen to retire early because of the ludicrous pension tax rules which effectively force certain professionals out of work as it’s no longer advantageous for them to continue.  The impact these taxes have had on doctors and surgeons is well documented.


I welcome the news that reforms are being considered to stop this problem, but I fear it’s too little too late.  Making it easier for people who don’t want to retire to stay in work for longer is a good thing, but guilting people into going back to work is a terrible strategy. 



If you’ve got a good business idea, don’t let other people’s criticism put you off.


Sir Alan Sugar certainly didn’t, which became very clear from his recent interview with The Sun’s TV editor.


He spoke about Amstrad making the first video-phone, called the “E-mailer”, and said everybody “took the p**s out of it”. 


Well maybe not everybody…he sold half a million of the things.  So while the cynics were mocking the idea, Sir Alan was laughing all the way to the bank. 


Fast forward to today and it’s hard to imagine a world without video calls.


The moral of that story is that you shouldn’t ever let critics put you off if you know in your heart that your idea’s a winner.




I was disappointed to hear the concerns raised by Women’s Enterprise Scotland (WES) around women-led businesses losing out on public sector contracts.


The comments came after the Federation of Small Businesses published evidence revealing that while microbusinesses make up 93 per cent of the entire business community, they receive less than five per cent of procurement spend by value. 


Many SMEs and microbusinesses are led by women, so WES is now calling for policy makers to consider ways to improve public sector spending on SMEs to ensure businesses of all sizes have the chance to engage with the procurement process, which would in turn provide greater opportunities for female-led businesses. 


Hopeully the finding will prompt change as it’s sad to see these challenges persisting for women in business despite the number of women-owned businesses rising.   






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