Retail sales of venison have grown by more than a quarter despite the closure of restaurants and catering outlets during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Research from The Knowledge Bank, unveiled to coincide with Scottish Venison Day on September 4, shows venison sales have grown strongly in the past year.
Data from market research company Nielsen shows that in the year to May 8, 2021, UK retail venison sales were up 28% to a value of £14 million, of which £3m was attributed to sales in Scotland.
“Venison sales have grown strongly in grocery over the last year with seasonal sales at Christmas particularly important,” said The Knowledge Bank director, Amanda Brown.
She said much of the rise in sales was down to the continued efforts during the pandemic of Scottish venison company, Highland Game, whose managing director recently pledged to fill any gaps on supermarket shelves at Christmas with venison.
Scottish Venison Association chairman, Richard Cooke, welcomed the sales figures and said: “This is good news and must also be partly down to our online promotional campaign which ran from March through to May earlier this year in Scotland, London and south-east England.
“It should give us a firm platform from which to re-establish the position of Scottish venison in the UK restaurant and hospitality sectors as these re-open following closure through lockdown and the Covid crisis.”
Forestry & Land Scotland is backing Scottish Venison Day by encouraging people to eat more wild venison.
The government agency’s head of wildlife management, Ian Fergusson, said: “Wild venison, a delicious and healthy meat, is one of Scotland’s best known fine foods with a growing international reputation.
“We deliver around one third of Scotland’s national cull, and virtually all of that venison is processed into fantastic, high quality and affordable food products.”
He said FLS was Scotland’s largest wild venison producer and it will cull around 40,000 animals this year and provide almost 1,000 tonnes of wild Scottish venison.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has awarded £80,000 of funding to implement a pilot project to expand locally based chill and processing facilities for venison in Scotland.
Announcing the funding, Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “£50,000 of funding was provided earlier this year to help support a venison promotion campaign and it’s fantastic to see this healthy, nutritious and sustainable product selling so well.
“The Scotland Food and Drink Partnership has also provided £80,000 to support demonstration sites for locally based chill and processing facilities; this will ensure the quality of product.”
Mr Cooke said the Covid-19 crisis had demonstrated the fragility of the Scottish venison supply chain, which relies heavily on a small number of skilled, professional businesses to take its raw product and process it for the market.
He said: “This new fund will enable us to help a small number of prospective ventures that are currently at business planning stage over the line, with a commitment to operate as demonstration units in their initial years.”