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26 November 2004
Press and Journal

Scottish business organisation the Entrepreneurial Exchange last night awarded its highest accolade - entrepreneur of the year - to Bill Hazeldean.

In the last 10 years, he developed Macrae Food Group into the largest UK producer of ready-to-eat seafood, with annual turnover of 87million.

Leading Scottish butcher Simon Howie was the winner in the emerging entrepreneur of the year category.

The pair were presented with their awards at a dinner in Glasgow.

A 30-year veteran of the UK food industry, Edinburgh-born Mr Hazeldean formed Macrae Food Group in 1994 to launch a management buyout of Foodmark's Peterhead factory.

This marked the start of a decade-long programme of acquisitions and organic growth for the seafood processing firm, culminating in its sale to Young's Bluecrest four months ago for more than 40million.

During his 10 years at the company helm, Mr Hazeldean transformed Macrae into the largest ready-to-eat seafood producer in the UK with a staff of 1,300.

Despite resigning the chairmanship of Macrae at the time of its sale, Mr Hazeldean is not bowing out of the cut and thrust of business, having indicated an appetite for returning to work in the food sector.

Former butcher's apprentice Simon Howie is fast becoming a household name.

After securing a deal to supply haggis to Sainsbury's stores UK-wide, Mr Howie now has a 2.5million-a-year partnership with the supermarket chain to run its Scottish meat counters under his own brand name.

With deals to supply Morrisons, Safeway, Spar, Somerfield and Co-op also wrapped up, Mr Howie's butchery business has proven that not only can independents compete with supermarkets - they can convince the so-called "big boys" to join forces with them.

A farmer's son from Perthshire, the 37-year-old opened his first butcher's shop at Dunning in 1986, aged 19.

By 1995 he had increased his holdings to a chain of four award-winning shops and had established a busy business in the catering trade, supplying more than 150 hotels and restaurants, including at Gleneagles and the Old Course Hotel at St Andrews.

His butchery business tells only part of his story.

Always quick to spot a gap in the market, the entrepreneur has established successful laminate fabricator, fridge and electrical goods recycling and property development companies.

Last night, the Exchange also welcomed two inductees into its hall of fame; Keith Miller, of Edinburgh-based construction and development company Miller Group, and Gordon Baxter, president of Fochabers-based Baxters Food Group.

Exchange chairman Jim McColl said: "The two Hall of Fame inductees have made massive contributions to Scotland's entrepreneurial spirit over the years and I think it's important to recognise individuals who will inspire this country's entrepreneurs for years to come."

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