Scotland’s food and drink growth sector generated a record turnover of £14.3 billion in 2013, Food Secretary Richard Lochhead has announced.

New analysis from the Scottish Government shows sector turnover is up £550 million on the year before and a staggering 24% increase since 2008. It means Scotland’s food and drink growth sector is on track to meet the industry’s turnover target of £16.5 billion by 2017.

Food and drink manufacturing – which accounts for about three quarters of the total turnover figure – has grown twice as fast since 2008 as food and drink manufacturing in the UK as a whole.

On a visit to the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group in Bellshill, Mr Lochhead said: “Our food and drink growth sector is a spectacular Scottish success story with turnover reaching a record high in 2013. To surpass £14 billion for the first time is simply outstanding and must give the sector real confidence.

“Our country is blessed with fantastic natural resources and this industry – with its strong brand and talented people – is Scotland’s jewel in the crown. I am committed to seeing it thrive and flourish which is why the Scottish Government and our agencies are working closely with industry to achieve its ambitious targets, which have previously been smashed years ahead of schedule.

“It is because of this joint approach that we are leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the UK, with food and drink manufacturing in Scotland, for example, growing at twice the UK rate between 2008 and 2013.”

Scotland Food & Drink chief executive James Withers said: “Breaking £14 billion for the first time is a hugely important milestone. Behind that huge figure lies individual success stories with food and drink business both large and small thriving in domestic market and international markets.

“This success is a direct outcome of the collaboration we’ve developed in Scotland with different organisations, government and individual companies working collectively. It has been a game-changer and has built a national identity for Scottish food and drink, driving growth at twice the rate of the UK average.

“No sector is without challenges. In food and drink, there are rising costs, variable exchange rates and really challenging times for farmers and fishermen who underpin the sector. However, the opportunities outweigh the challenges and we’ve earmarked over £2 billion in further growth in the next few years.”

Stephen Cameron, managing director of the Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group, said: “It is fantastic news that Scotland’s food and drink sector is thriving and I am delighted that the Scottish farmed shellfish sector is playing its role in this success story. We have an ongoing strategy to increase tonnages in line with market demand, which is rising year on year. We are experiencing a sustained increase in sales and through product innovation have developed a wide range of mussel ready meals and other shellfish dishes that are proving popular with consumers.”

The record-breaking figures have been published the day before Food Secretary travels to Italy to promote Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink at the prestigious international Milan Expo.

Mr Lochhead added: “The Milan Expo is expected to attract more than 20 million visitors, making it the ideal platform to showcase Scotland during our Year of Food and Drink. During my visit I will be promoting Scotland’s outstanding natural larder which is already in high demand across the globe for its exceptional quality and unrivalled provenance.”