Jill and Callum Clark at Connage Highland Dairy are the current Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards Ambassadors.

These awards recognise excellence across the Highlands, islands and Cairngorms National Park area in thirteen different categories ranging from the best eatery award to awards recognising new products and business success.  The Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards are delivered with support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Entries are invited from businesses of all sizes at hifoodanddrinkawards.com. The deadline for entries is 6th May.

Here Jill Clarke celebrates the success of local food and drink and encourages producers to proudly shout about it too.

Hailing from Australia, I have noticed over the years just how humble and modest Scottish people are about their achievements.  Yet every day I see examples of people working within the Scottish food and drink industry who really ought to be shouting from the rooftops about how fantastic their produce is.

Certainly, some of their humble nature has rubbed off on me over the years but having recently been voted Highlands & Islands Food Ambassadors, my husband Callum and I are keen to be a little more vocal about just how great the food and drink industry in the Highlands and Islands really is.

We run our own business, Connage Highland Dairy, which is a traditional, family-owned, fully organic cheese business, situated on the family farm near Inverness, but as ambassadors I hope that we can also help others to promote the uniqueness, taste and charm of what they produce.

When we first started Connage Highland Dairy in 2005, there’s no way it would’ve become what it is today without the support of local people and businesses, and we’re really keen to invest that kind of support back into the area.

It can be hard running a business in a rural community, especially somewhere remote where the kindest way to describe the weather is unreliable and the terrain and distances also present a significant challenge.
More and more people are choosing to find out more about where their food comes form, and that’s great news for small, independent food and drinks producers.

We’re keen to help people appreciate the benefits of buying and souring food locally, and about the health benefits that come with that produce as well. One key tool for us, and for other businesses, is undoubtedly social media.  It’s a great, free tool that you can use to promote not only your own business, but also others around you, the area in which you live, and the industry in which you work. It’s also key for getting in contact with other people – whether they’re just down the road, or on the other side of the world. It’s time to park those modest thoughts and start promoting!

The Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards, alongside the national Scotland Food & Drink Excellent Awards, are a testament to the wonderful producers in the region, and we’re excited to see all the brands that continue to be recognised. Working together as businesses to promote each other both on and offline can only be a good thing for the area and the food and drink industry as a whole, and we hope businesses, both new and already established, continue to get the support they need to flourish.