Bringing a little panache to the added value arena is something Scottish companies have become pretty good at, says Sheila Eggleston With a distinct flair for trendspotting, Scottish companies have been playing to their strengths and creating a host of authentic niche products to fill gaps in the marketplace. Sco-Fro Foods' forte is combining shellfish with luxury sauces under crumb coated potato toppings. One of its rising stars is the frozen and chilled So Special range of upmarket appetisers and starters targeted at consumers wanting a quick and easy meal solution. The company's three factories are all seafood based, and production has been stepped up since it moved into its newest factory at Fort William at the end of last year to cope with increased sales activity in the UK. It also has a strong presence in Europe but much of its export activity is driven by its coated range of products. Sales and marketing director James Campbell says: "We are working actively out of the new factory using Scottish ingredients wherever possible. "Our Coquilles D'Ecosse is a real scallop shell filled with a luxury shellfish combination such as salmon and scallops which can be under So Special or own label. "The variant we manufacture for Safeway under the Best label is a blend of langoustine and queen scallop and this recently came top in a women's magazine tasting session." Its latest lines are vol au vents stuffed with langoustine and thermidor sauce or white wine and dill, and in the pipeline is salmon en croute. "A lot of salmon en croute is sold on price but we are more quality conscious. Our specification is prime cuts of fish, and the sauce quality has to be as good as that of the fish. "The price for frozen will be about £1.99 for a 300g pack. Chilled will be more," says Campbell. Another range Sco-Fro is developing is baked pastry scallop shells filled with salmon and prawn in bearnaise and tarragon sauce, or cod and prawn in mornay and chive sauce. These 100g shells packed in twos will retail for £1.99. Vegetarian specialist Wicken Fen has been developing unusual flavours to enhance its gourmet sausage range. "If we can incorporate a delicious flavour into a vegetarian sausage, we will do it it," says md Paul Weeks. Cucumber yogurt and mint and Middle Eastern falafel flavours are its new seasonal lines. Strathmore Foods md Colin Muir says that the increased demand for ready meals has spurred the company to make further inroads into this sector under its Countryside brand. "It seemed like the next logical step for us to expand our frozen food range and introduce plated dinners," he says. Steak pie dinner and chicken and leek pie dinner are made with tender cuts of meat and come with mashed potato and vegetables. Another innovation with instant Scots appeal is its savoury pots range aimed at a broad spectrum of consumers. Available in four packs, sausage, bean and potato is targeted as kids' snacks, haggis, neaps and tatties for the traditionalist, and chicken tikka for the younger consumer. Strathmore Foods has added a £1m factory extension to house additional cold storage to cope with the growing demand. The extra space will also ease the company's pie production, now in excess of 300,000 a week. Sushi bars may be the cool place to be seen in London, but The Sushi Company in Glasgow claims that, with the exception of London, more sushi is consumed per head in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK. Developing trends like this is at the top of the company's agenda, and it recently opened the first sushi manufacturing plant in Scotland. State-of-the-art facilities include six sushi robot operators specially imported from Japan which, the company says, are the first of their kind in Europe and will make it possible to produce £5m of sushi a year. Production continues through the night and the sushi is delivered direct to retailers to guarantee freshness. The company supplies more than 50 key outlets in Scotland and has just gained listings in five Safeway stores. There are plans for a roll out to other Safeway stores in the future. Seven sushi combinations are available in Japanese style bento boxes ranging in price from £1.50-£4. {{Z SUPPLEMENTS }}