Scottish food and drink exports achieved record sales of £1.4 billion in the first quarter of 2019. Whilst Scotch whisky and Scottish salmon have always enjoyed success overseas, the quality assurance and provenance of the Scottish brand, together with the promotion of Scottish producers has increased the interest of international markets in a variety of Scottish produce.

Emerging Export Markets

Food and drink has become one of Scotland's most successful sectors, having increased by 78% since 2007. Whilst Singapore is Scotland's biggest food and drink export market per capita outside the EU, there is already demand for Highland Wagyu beef in Hong Kong, toffee in Iraq and Haggis in Canada. Scottish export ambitions do not stop there.

The Scottish Government has set out a five year vision with its Scotland Food and Drink Export Plan. The Export Plan targets countries such as North America, Japan and the Middle East as some of the key prospective export markets to assist the industry meet its aim of £30 billion turnover by 2030.

Through a combination of global trade shows, helping buyers and sellers with logistics and working to reduce barriers to trade, the Export Plan aims to boost brand "Scotland".

Brand Scotland

From the raw materials to the restaurant scene, the breadth and quality of goods available has already helped put Scotland on the map as a world-class food and drink producer.

Whilst the provenance of Scottish products will assist in international markets, it is important for brands to carry out proper due diligence and to protect their own intellectual property (IP) rights, such as brand names, and ensure they do not infringe third party IP abroad.

Protecting produce and your brand

Household names with an already established international reputation have a better standing when entering foreign markets. However, all businesses should explore their IP rights and those of others, both here and in target markets - ideally before export. It is particularly worth considering whether there are any companies already on the market in an export country with a similar name and/or similar goods to your existing brand. Having built up goodwill in Glasgow is unlikely to afford a brand protection in Germany and sometimes a brand name could have a very different, and potentially negative, meaning in a foreign country.

Even registered rights are not a failsafe as they are specific to certain geographical areas. Having a UK trade mark for your name and logo will not afford protection outside the UK. Consider countries of interest and where else a registered mark should be applied for. Brand clearance searches prior to registration and use will flag up any existing brands in that target market with a similar mark, which could create confusion with consumers and create a barrier to your registration or use of the brand abroad.

Whilst the brand name of a product is a key identifier and badge of trust for consumers, it is also worth considering whether other unique components which make up a product are worth protecting. The shape of a bottle may be a key selling point for a gin company. If so, a registered design could help preserve this unique feature and provide ammunition to stop copy-cat packaging. Maybe your product has a novel manufacturing process. Before releasing it into a new market, it is worth exploring whether this process could be patented or at least take steps to protect the confidentiality of that process to maintain your competitive edge.

The Scottish food and drink industry has gone from strength to strength in recent years and this success looks set to continue. With ever increasing global opportunities for the Scottish food and drink sector, protecting IP is a key consideration before embarking on exporting, for businesses of all shapes and sizes. There is a plethora of IP in any one product and it is worth seeking advice both here and abroad to explore all avenues of protection to preserve the brand.

The theme of Brodies Food & Drink Conference 2019 is New Markets: New Opportunities. The conference will provide an engaging forum to discuss exciting new opportunities and growth areas for the sector. For more information and to register your place please click here.