Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond on Thursday announced that he will lead 17 Scottish companies to New York as part of his program for the Scotland Week trade mission. Ahead of travelling to New York on Thursday, Salmond said, "The Scotland Week trade mission will capitalize on the increasing appetite for premium Scottish products across fashion, interiors and food and drink, which have a strong appeal with the American consumer." Food and drinks exports to the United States alone have increased by a staggering 82 percent since 2007 and stood in excess of 817 million pounds (about 1.36 billion U.S. dollars) in 2012, while the U.S. market remains the top destination for Scotch Whisky exports, increasing 16 percent to 758 million pounds in 2012, and the United States is the largest importer of Scottish farmed salmon, said Salmond. The Scottish exports to the United States worth 3.5 billion in 2012, and the country is the largest inward investor in Scotland, with 580 U.S. companies employing 98,000 people, which equates to 28 percent of the total number of foreign investors, said the Scottish government. Organized by Scottish Development International, the international arm of Scottish Enterprise, Salmond's five-day program includes a number of strategic business meetings with existing and potential new investors for a further boost of foreign employment in Scotland. Moreover, Scottish External Affairs Minister Humza Yousaf is also scheduled to travel to Canada on Thursday and the United States for the Scotland Week to strengthen the link between Scotland and the two countries. The Scotland Week is an annual week-long program of business, government and tourism engagements aimed at promoting Scotland as a great place to live, visit, do business, study and invest with key North American markets in the United States and Canada.