The Isle of Harris Gin and Harris Tweed featured at a reception at the British Embassy in Tokyo, where Fiona Hyslop, Scotland's Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, promoted Scotland as an ideal location for Japanese investment.
Delegates were offered the Isle of Harris’ delectable gin as a welcome drink before being given the opportunity to view Harris Tweed luxury fabric garments and accessories - which included a quirky ‘Hello Kitty’, the fictional character created by Japan’s Yuko Shimizu, clad in the eponymous textile.
The purpose of the visit was to build relations with the community of investors, trade partners, Scottish companies and intermediaries in Japan; while showcasing the best of Scotland on a global stage. The presence of Harris’ business success stories also demonstrated that some of Scotland’s most remote enterprises can achieve international reach. The Cabinet Secretary’s programme of engagements ran from 2 – 5 July.
A historic relationship between Scotland and Japan has led to significant diplomatic, cultural and business collaborations in recent years. And with Japan ranking 19th as an export destination for Scottish goods, Scotland also continues to enjoy confidence from Japanese investors - 90 of whom are currently based here, employing 6,060 locally adding an impressive £1.8 billion to the local economy.
The two iconic Harris institutions were invited to attend the Cabinet Secretary’s reception by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). To date, Isle of Harris Distillers has received grant approvals from HIE totalling more than £1.25m assisting with the construction of the distillery, off-site warehouse, business development costs and attendance at trade fairs. The company also leases the land it occupies from HIE.
Harris Tweed has enjoyed continued support from HIE including a £300,000 investment towards the upgrade and expansion of Lewis based Harris Tweed Hebrides to meet the increase in demand for its unique and highly popular cloth.
Simon Erlanger, managing director of Isle of Harris Gin, commented: “Despite the brand’s infancy, Harris gin has been embraced by Japan and its love of premium spirits.
“The Japanese share a passion for seaweed and seafood, so the connection with our Isle of Harris gin and the Hebridean sugar kelp lends itself to great opportunity for growth.
“I recently attended the food and drink market specialist event run by HIE, attended by two SDI in-market experts from Japan, which allowed me to discuss global export opportunities at length. I hope that by the end of 2018, 15% of sales will come from international markets and this will only continue to grow in coming years.”
Lorna Macauley, chief executive of Harris Tweed Authority, commented: “Japan continues to be a vitally important premium export market for Harris Tweed. Japanese consumers understand and appreciate colour, texture and hand-craftsmanship so evident in Harris Tweed cloth."
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs commented:
“Scotland supplies some of the world’s most sought-after produce to high-end retailers and restaurants across the globe. Japan is an important part of that picture – indeed Scotland’s food and drink industry exported goods to Japan worth £130 million in 2016. Whisky sales alone have jumped 10% over the last five years.
“From red meat, salmon and seafood to dairy, bakery and craft beer, Scottish producers benefit from the very features that Scotland is most admired for; beautiful unspoilt landscapes, fertile land, clear waters and clean air.”
“This week, I will be doing all I can to help Scottish companies, such as Harris Tweed and Isle of Harris Distillery, access new opportunities in this dynamic market. Both firms report a sharp rise in consumer demand in Japan for their high quality premium products.
“Scottish producers take pride in their craft and are dedicated to satisfying international demand for premium products backed by strong Scottish heritage. That is why the Scottish Government has funded a national £10 million industry-led strategy to further assist the food and drink sector in realising its ambition to double turnover value by 2030.”