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Ambition and Innovation: Food and Drink in Scotland...Square Sausage Rolls and Potato Scones.

I attended The Scotsman Ambition and Innovation Conference in Edinburgh yesterday. It was a collection of experts in the fields of cooking, farming, small business development, and brewing/distilling from around the country. The goal was to make some connections and get some inspiration. I brought along my best connection and inspiration, Ewan, as I figured he could introduce me to a few to the players (as he did).

The focus was the industry's 2030 goals which included environmental initiatives, export ambitions while maintaining authenticity and heritage throughout the growth process, and promoting local (or at least regional) food sourcing for distribution at home and abroad. I learned that much of Scotland's land is impractical for farming produce but perfect for feeding cattle and sheep. I learned that salmon farming is expanding into deeper waters per demand and that simply providing clean, fresh water (not chemicals) is the best way to help the fish fight infection and maintain their health.

There was mention of the obesity crisis with some scary stats peppered throughout. Nothing we haven't heard before. But with rates of diabetes and heart disease on the rise, the NHS will be hard pressed to serve this population, cost being prohibited. There were few questions about dietary issues during panel discussions. Perhaps some (me) would like to know how can we can better modify the nutritional content of food to better serve Scotland? How can we create more functional foods, foods that provide a "medicinal benefit" like fermented foods or tumeric do. How can the feed provided to cattle and other animals be improved so that the meat is healthier? What about wild salmon? Can farmed salmon feed evolve into something that would produce an omega fatty acid profile like their wild brethren have naturally. The experts in these fields were all in attendance. They have a passion and pride for Scottish food and drink- and I believe my love for them is growing too. It would have been nice to hear about popular food trends that are bringing people back into their kitchens and hopefully on the path to better health. Topics like food foraging, tackling food allergies which are on the rise, increasing veggie proteins, and CRISPR & other biotechnologies.

The co-founder of IQ chocolate ( presented her product. Jane Shandley states: "IQ Chocolate is made from specially selected criollo beans, tested for their superior nutritional profile, and naturally fruity flavour. We have developed a method to protect the goodness of the beans, and retain the natural flavour. iQ superfood chocolate is: Nut Free, Gluten Free, Wheat Free, Dairy Free, Soya Free. Low GI (Glyceamic index), and containing no refined sugar. In addition, it is high in fibre, copper, manganese and phosphorus and is a source of magnesium and iron." She and her partner developed this product along with Queen Margret University to ensure the nutrient facts are as true as the label claims. In my option, she seems to be on the right path with this new, ambitious and innovative product.

So back to my personal ambitions...

The list of attendees had only one name associated with the word nutrition. I rolled around staring at peoples name tags during the brunch break to see if I could find the one. Perhaps the square sausage rolls (a traditional dish of mystery meat between a bun of ultra refined white bread) scared her off?!

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