All about Orkney Food & Drink with Edgar Balfour
Orkney Food & Drink is an organisation which represents the leading food and drink producers from the islands.
To support Orkney food and drink, try to buy local products where possible and ask your local shops to stock products you like. Maybe also send Orkney food and drink as gifts to friends and relatives who live outwith the islands.
These companies combine the finest natural harvests of the land and sea with the highest production standards, and proudly ensure that Orkney has a reputation for wonderful food and drink.
We had a chat to Edgar Balfour, Project Manager at Orkney Food & Drink to find out more about the organisation.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about Orkney Food & Drink?
A. Orkney Food & Drink is a membership organisation formed in 1993. It was initially for producers only but has grown over the years to include retailers and providers as well. We have over 100 members. We represent the sector to all parties and are tasked with organising events and the distribution of information about the fine food and drink Orkney has to offer.
Q. What is your role and how did you become involved in Orkney Food and Drink?
A. I am currently employed as Project Manager for Orkney Food & Drink. Coincidentally, I was actually the inaugural Chairman of the organisation – back in 1993 – when I was Managing Director at Orkney Meat Limited. After many years on the Board, I left Orkney Meat and the sector in 2008. In 2013 the role I currently hold was advertised and I was successful in my application.
I maintain membership, keep members informed, represent them at meetings with Orkney Islands Council / Highlands and Islands Enterprise etc – and of course organise a range of events both within and out with Orkney.
Q. What makes Orkney produce so special?
A. It is an island! That is both a brilliant marketing tool, but also a difficult logistical fact. All food businesses have to deal with this fact and that means selling at the premium end of the market. But the other thing is that there is such a wide range of products that we make here – so much more than most island areas and much more than people first think. And the quality (a much-overused word) is at the very top end. This all makes my job of promoting Orkney produce very much easier!
Q. Do you have a favourite food that can only be found in Orkney?
A. I have many favourite Orkney Food products – and singling out one is extremely difficult. However, Beremeal is a truly unique product and is an ingredient in many great tasting Orkney products. Similarly North Ronaldsay Lamb is unique. But of course, we have so many food products to choose from.
Q. Do you have any ‘must try foods’ for folk visiting Orkney?
A. With my background in the meat industry – I always felt (and still do) that you will struggle to find a better steak than a good rib-eye or rump from Orkney (cooked properly – rare – of course). Sorry to vegetarians or vegans – but each to his own!
Q. What collectively are Orkney Food and Drink most proud of?
A. The ability of Orkney’s food producers to work together for the greater good of Orkney. This sounds very simple – but few areas in Scotland manage to achieve it – and it shows the unique way Islanders think and operate.
Q. Do you have any tips for anyone considering setting up their own food or drink business?
A. Find a niche. Do your research. Speak to others. Have a plan. And, of course, apply to join Orkney Food & Drink!
Q. What can folk do to support Orkney Food and Drink?
A. Just by trying to buy local products where possible and asking your local shops to stock products you might like. Maybe also try sending Orkney food and drink as gifts to friends and relatives who live outwith the islands.
For more information about Orkney Food & Drink, please visit the website at https://www.orkney.com/things/food-and-drink
Orkney and Shetland fanatic, likes to capture life through a lens, loves creating, eclectic taste in music, enjoys being a Mum; would secretly love to be a star of the West End!