A FUNDING pot of £190,000 has been directed towards promoting the sale of local produce in convenience stores across Scotland.

The Go Local initiative, funded by the Scottish Government, will see at least 21 grants paid to convenience store operators to help them increase sales of fresh, healthy, locally sourced food.

The funding will be used to develop retail space in shops, alongside the appointment of a dedicated specialist with extensive retail and sourcing experience to maximise consumer choice and available display space.

The programme – administered by the Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF) with the support of Scotland Food and Drink – is now in its second year, after an evaluation of the pilot phase showed the success of the initiative had far exceeded expectations.

Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “This funding comes at an important time and will help food and drink producers be part of our sustainable recovery and overcome the challenges presented by Brexit and the pandemic.

“We know that consumers are increasingly interested in where their food comes from and are looking for high welfare and production standards."

A study found that stores participating in the Go Local initiative each added an average of 30 square metres of extra space, allowing a 34% increase in the number of local products stocked.

Outlets who took part in the project also saw a 40% increase in sales of local produce, while it is estimated additional local economic benefits were in excess of £157,000 per store.

Ms Gougeon continued: “A diverse and successful convenience store sector is ideally placed to give customers the greater choice of locally-produced, healthy produce they are looking for, while at the same time helping to achieve our net zero targets by reducing food miles.

“These grants and the specialist expertise on offer underlines our commitment to supporting this important sector and I would not only urge store operators to apply for funding, but for customers to continue supporting their local shops.”

SGF chief executive Dr Pete Cheema OBE added: “We are delighted the Scottish Government has continued its investment in the Go Local project, enabling convenience retailers to increase their range of local products. The sector has punched above its weight during these difficult times and the fact is it local shops who have made the difference," he continued.

“The results we have seen already have been impressive with a clear local multiplier effect, which benefits retailers and Scottish manufacturers, while demonstrating that convenience stores can also play a crucial role in the recovery and regrowth of Scotland’s food and drink industry."