Welcome boost for Scottish Venison with funding injection from Scottish Government to help through COVID-19

The Scottish Venison Association can announce that it is receiving £50k funding support from the Scottish Government to help maintain supply chains, raise awareness and increase visibility and purchase of Scottish venison products through a tactical campaign starting in December.

The funding, being delivered through SAOS and Scotland Food & Drink, is the first project to come through the new industry-led Food and Drink Recovery Plan for Scotland’s farming, fishing and food and drink sector announced last week. The funds are vital in supporting the wild venison sector particularly through the main period of the hind cull. Over 100,000 deer are culled annually in Scotland (all species red, roe, sika and fallow) with the majority going into the human food chain. The cull is essential to manage wild deer and keep numbers in balance with the environment, habitat and biodiversity, and for deer welfare.  The resultant venison, a healthy protein and among the healthiest of all red meats, has a loyal following among consumers and is becoming increasingly widely available across the UK.

Rolled venison haunch at the butcher

Market data shows that venison sales through UK retail/grocery remain strong, increasing by 10 percent (year to September 2020) but the restaurant, catering and hospitality sector has been decimated by COVID-19 restrictions with a consequential impact right back down the supply chain.  Local sales and mail order have been growing but not enough to compensate for lost restaurant and other food service sales.  Export orders have also been hit hard by Brexit uncertainty.

The £50k online campaign through Edinburgh and London based agency The Gate has been developed to support all channels of trade and both wild and farmed venison supply. Targeting predominantly London and SE England and Scotland, it will run from December into the New Year. Complementary to this, and an essential part of the mix that will dramatically increase the campaign’s promotional value and impact, is an upswing in PR and online activity from all elements of the sector.

Bill Bewsher, Chairman, the Scottish Venison Association, says:

“We are grateful to the Scottish Government for this support. They have recognised that the damage from COVID potentially goes right back to our landscape, our hills and woods where, if the cull fails, the set-back for management and the environmental consequences will be serious.

“Our approach is one of encouraging the consumer to try, to buy, and to buy more venison; to seek venison out and hopefully commit not just for now but for the future.  In that way this campaign works not just in response to the current crisis but in moving Beyond the Glen, the strategy for the Scottish Venison sector to 2030, forward.

“It’s vital also that all in our sector up their game with regard to PR and engagement on social media to amplify the Scottish venison message.  It isn’t a silver bullet, but we hope can assist in keeping supply chains moving for this season.

“The return of the restaurant, hospitality and events sectors will come, and that is crucial, and the sooner the better for all concerned – but we cannot wait for that before taking action.”

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said:

“I’m pleased to be supporting this campaign, particularly as the main aim of Scotland’s first strategy for the wild and farmed venison sector is to improve supply chains.

“I recognise the difficulties that the sector has had to endure due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The £50,000 grant – part of the wider £5 million food and drink recovery programme – will support the wild venison sector to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.”

John Davidson, Strategy and External Relations Director, Scotland Food & Drink, said:

“This a great opportunity to showcase our quality Scottish venison to consumers across the UK and I am delighted that our Recovery Plan is already having a positive impact at a critical time for our venison sector.”

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