Scottish Government
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New guide for food producers

A new guide offering smaller and medium sized enterprises advice on how to bid for public sector catering contracts has been launched.

The guide has been produced by the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS) and Scotland Food & Drink with the support of the Scottish Government.

Schools, colleges, hospitals and prisons are being encouraged to look at how to make their procurement activity more accessible to small and medium sized suppliers. This could mean a wealth of fresh opportunities in the £130 million per annum market.

Speaking at today's official launch at Perth Grammar School, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

"Scotland is a land rich in top quality produce. It only seems right that our schools and hospitals make the most of having such a wonderful natural larder on their doorstep.

"This Guide provides practical guidance to businesses interested in getting a foothold in selling quality food and drink to the public sector. It will help dispel any notion that these contracts are off limits or too complex for smaller sized food producers and manufacturing businesses.

"The public purse always looks for value for money but we recognise that price is not the only factor. Food is not just a commodity. It affects our health and our environment. That is why we firmly support sustainable public procurement.

"This Guide contains a wealth of information which I hope will see many more SMEs competing and winning contracts to deliver healthy, sustainably produced food and drink in schools, hospitals and across the public sector."

Alan Stevenson, Supply Chain Development Director at SAOS, said:

"The Guide was developed using the real experiences of those involved in public procurement throughout Scotland, which has helped provide an invaluable insight into the tendering process and procedures on a practical level. Most importantly, companies need to know how such markets operate, what the requirements are, and how to adopt a professional approach giving them the best chance to win new business. The Guide, along with a helpline, advisory support and learning workshops will help them to do this."

One of the excellent examples of this approach is the relationship built up between StirFresh Ltd and Tayside Contracts. StirFresh was originally a farming-based business and is now a key supplier of prepared fruit and vegetables. Andrew Stirling, owner and director of StirFresh Ltd, said:

"Our family farming business has worked with the public sector for a number of years, supplying fresh produce grown on the farm to schools and hospitals. We have shown a willingness to change and grow and would encourage others to do the same and are fully supportive of the drive to get more fresh and healthy produce into Scotland's public sector."

Paul McLaughlin, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink said:

"This guidance is a strong example of different sectors collaborating to maximise the value of Scotland's food and drink industry. I would urge SMEs to take advantage of the valuable advice on offer and use it to boost their business both in Scotland and further afield."

The Guide to Supplying the Public Sector, as well as information on other sources of support, can be obtained by calling the Scotland Food & Drink Information Service on 0845 601 3752 or email Alternatively, this can be found at Most local authority and hospital procurement offices will also have copies available.

The Scottish Government has also established a free-to-use, on-line Public Contracts Scotland Portal to enable all of the Scottish Public Sector to advertise their opportunities in a single place. Major contracts and many smaller opportunities are advertised on the portal. It is the prime site to search for Scottish Public Sector tendering opportunities. The portal gives free access to contract opportunities.

The Scottish Government's new Catering Framework Agreement promotes the use of fresh seasonal produce with an emphasis on environmental sustainability and nutritional standards. The Scottish Government has also introduced six simple steps to support small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), including suppliers and producers tendering to the public sector.

Scotland's first National Food and Drink Policy, 'Recipe for Success', includes a commitment to introduce an action plan to support SMEs in supplying healthy, sustainable food to the public sector. The action plan will also help the public sector procure healthy, sustainable food. For small and medium sized businesses who are interested there are a number of clear benefits to be gained, including:

  • Dependable business - year round for prisons and hospitals and around 40 weeks per year for school and colleges
  • Payment within 30 days of receipt of invoice
  • Public Sector buyers who are keen to increase opportunities for small and medium sized businesses
  • A new focus on sustainable procurement which is likely to increase opportunities for smaller suppliers

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