Here at The Grocer, we’re pretty passionate about food and drink. Just how passionate was made clear when the team was asked to help compile a list of notable up-and-coming British food and drink businesses. We ended up with a list of brands that would have filled this issue of the magazine if we had tried to include them all!

So instead, we have picked just a handful that we believe represents the wonderful diversity of the British food and drink industry. Over the next few pages you will find, in no particular order, brands that have become household names and others that some readers of The Grocer will not even have heard of. What links them all - aside from their British origins - are two compelling attributes: strong, innovative branding, and attention to quality.

Babyfood brand Ella’s Kitchen is a case in point. “We stand out by being uncompromising on the quality of our ingredients and creativity of our recipes, by remaining truly innovative and by ensuring our brand really understands what young families want from a child’s point of view,” explains founder Paul Lindley.

These qualities are far more than window dressing - they drive outstanding commercial success. As The Grocer’s Top Products Survey showed, sales at Ella’s Kitchen have risen 36.1% year-on-year to £21.2m, Genius is up 27.6% to £10m, Tyrrells is up 32.3% to £20.2m and Higgidy’s sales have increased by 23.9% to £7.9m.

Whatever their size or profile, all the businesses featured are riding the wave of growing interest in provenance. “There has been an increase in demand from retailers for home-grown products, which is a reaction to consumer demand,” says Eric Heerema, CEO of premium English wine producer Nyetimber. “Consumers are conscious of food miles and are increasingly buying British products.”

And for many suppliers the same qualities that have made them local successes have also helped them gain traction overseas. Genius, Ella’s Kitchen and BrewDog all export their products, while Tyrrells made headlines last year when it revealed that Russians would be paying a whopping £5 a bag for its crisps in 180 Spar stores around Moscow and St Petersburg.

So what makes these brands so special? Read on to find out why we think they stand out and what the brands themselves think the secret to success is:

The Juice Brewery

  • What: brewed soft drinks targeted at adults
  • Who and when: founded by Greg Watson and Neville Portelli in 2008
  • Based: London
  • Employees: Four
  • Listed: Waitrose, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Selfridges, indies and bars

We say: “The current climate is ripe for offering adults a cheaper, healthier and – dare we say it – a responsible alternative to alcoholic drinks. The Grocer was blown away by the quality and taste of the products – far removed from sugary soft drinks.”

They say: “After tasting a strawberry beer, we wondered why there wasn’t a similar adult soft drink, and decided to create our own. Hopper Soft Brew is the first brewed zero-alcohol adult so drink of its kind.”

Best business decision? “Appointing highly experienced distribution partner R H Amar.”

And the worst? “Listening to so-called experts. We knew we had a great-tasting product from testing it in a local pub, yet we were coerced into spending a fortune doing focus groups around the country.”

When did you realise you’d made it? “When M&S listed our product under its own label.”

Are your products 100% British? “Yes. It’s vital to our brand positioning, especially overseas, as the brewing process is steeped in British heritage.”

How important is ‘Britishness’ to UK retailers? “Very important, particularly now as consumers look for that reassuring and nostalgic product USP.”



  • What: crisps
  • Who and when: founded by Will Chase in 2002
  • Based: Herefordshire
  • Employees: 130
  • Listed: Tesco, Sainsbury’s Waitrose, The Co-op and independents, delis and farm shops

We say: “Tyrrells makes headlines. Founder Will Chase was responsible for particularly memorable coverage ve years ago, when he got into a spat with Tesco after refusing to allow it to stock his crisps (they are back in now). New boss David Milner - who’s driven the brand’s overseas success - generated plenty of column inches last year when he visited Russia with PM David Cameron as part of a trade delegation.”

They say: “The Tyrrells range boasts provenance and quality in sackfuls. An engaging brand proposition also sets us apart.

Best business decision? “Rolling out Root Vegetable Crisps within a year or so of launch was crucial in positioning Tyrrells as the innovative premium player within the crisp market.”

And the worst? “Not buying snow shovels. In the final push to get Christmas orders out in 2010, a number of staff nearly ended up sleeping in the office.”

Are your products 100% British? “Our crisps are made from 100% Herefordshire-grown potatoes, which is a compelling selling point.”

How important is ‘Britishness’?“Tyrrells’ success has been on the back of a provenance-rich offering. We even have a range called Best of British for independents, with British-inspired seasonings.”

Any exports? “We export to more than 20 countries.”

How is British food perceived globally? “The provenance and ‘quirkiness’ many British suppliers can offer is very attractive, especially in the US.”

A brand you like? “Firefly Natural Drinks is a lovely company making great strides here and abroad.” 



  • What: frozen yoghurt
  • Who and when: founded by entrepreneurial duo Es Salih and Rebecca McGuire in 2008
  • Based: Kent
  • Employees: 40+
  • Listed in: Waitrose, Wholefoods and six Yog stores

We say: “As the first frozen yoghurt brand to be stocked in a UK supermarket, Yog has played a huge role in creating a new and burgeoning category.”

They say: “We knew that we had something special from the get-go and remortgaged to start up the business!”

What’s so special about Yog? “It contains no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, and is 100% fat and gluten-free. It is handmade and churn-aged on a 200-acre working dairy farm in Kent – a true British success story.”

Sticky moment? “We spent nearly two years and an awful lot of money ghting a legal case to own the Yog trademark. To cut a long story short, we won, but this nearly sent us both grey.”

How British are you? “Our main ingredient is skimmed milk, which is produced on the farm from 70 Friesian cows, and when we need more milk we source locally from the neighbouring farms. This is very important to a retailer like Waitrose, which shares a passion for locally sourced, locally made products.”

Any export success? “Not yet, but watch this space – we are receiving increasing numbers of enquiries to do business abroad.”

Name a British brand you admire: “Higgidy Pies – we love the brand, and the pies taste amazing.” 


The Big Prawn Company

  • What: seafood
  • Who and when: Sean O’Hanlon founded the company in 1995 and remains in charge of the business
  • Based: Norfolk
  • Number of employees: 40
  • Listed : Waitrose, Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl, Iceland, Budgens, Spar, Booths, Co-Op, Ocado

We say: “It takes real air to develop a brand in a category as dominated by own label as seafood, not to mention the challenge of rebranding the 70s prawn cocktail for the 21st century. The Big Prawn Co is adding colour to supermarket shelves and freezers with its innovative range of products, and recently introduced prawn snack packs

They say: “We initially set up the business to handpeel coldwater prawns, but soon spotted a gap in the UK market and introduced crayfish tails to Pret a Manger. Since then, we have built up a successful retail business, using innovative product formats.”

What makes you special? “Our products are unique in the UK and include long-life seafood in brine, which offers the consumer the benefit of fresh chilled but without the five to six days typical shelf life. ”

Best business decision? “Being first to market with innovation such as the Big & Juicy range, which took the business into retail frozen for the first time.”

And the worst? “Not everything works! Our redundant packaging stocks are testament to that!”

How important is ‘Britishness’? Retailers will take a British over an imported product when possible, but price is usually the overriding factor.”



  • What: apple juice, cider and vinegar
  • Who and when: Founded by Chevallier family, 1728
  • Based: Suffolk
  • Number of employees: 60
  • Listed: Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons and Waitrose, Majestic Wine and the on-trade

We say: “Aspall ciders are distinct in flavour and stand out in an increasingly crowded fixture. The owners have stayed true to the brand and not been led off course by fashion-led ciders.”

They say: “Aspall has been based at the same site in Debenham, Suffolk, since 1728 and is now run by the eighth generation of the Chevallier family.”

What makes you special? “Aspall ciders are made from a blend of bittersweet and culinary apples. Other traditional cider producers tend to use far fewer culinary apples.”

Best business decision? “Embarking on NPD across our cider portfolio and relaunching our vinegar range a year ago. Last year, we launched two new ciders, including Aspall Lady Jennifer’s, a lighter, softer, 4% abv cider .”

And the worst? “Discontinuing our cider vinegar in one-litre bottles when we relaunched our vinegar range a year ago. We had a huge number of complaints. We had the product back on the shelf within three months of discontinuing it.”

Are your products 100% British-sourced? “We always source British products whenever we can. However, our wine vinegars are produced in Spain as they cannot be produced in the UK. If an apple crop is not of the best quality, or in short supply, we will very occasionally source fruit from Northern Europe .”

How important is ‘Britishness’ to UK retailers? “It is becoming more and more important and is likely to become even more prevalent this year with the Jubilee and the Olympics.”

Do you export? “Yes, and have recently experienced strong growth in the US and Australian markets.”



  • What: English wine
  • Who and when: Founded by Stuart and Sandy Moss from Chicago in 1988 and bought by Dutchman Eric Heerema in 2006
  • Based: Mayfair
  • Number of employees: 50
  • Listed: Waitrose, Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols and other independents and online wine merchants.

We say: “It was set up by Americans and is owned by a Dutchman, but Nyetimber is a quintessentially English wine brand that produces sparkling wines that rival top Champagnes.”

They say: “About 400 acres of vines are planted on our estate in West Sussex, including chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grape. These are blended by winemaker Cherie Spriggs to produce classic cuvée, blanc de blancs and rosé.”

What makes you special? “Nyetimber is the only producer in England to grow, hand select, press and bottle wine made exclusively from estate .”

Do you export? “Not yet, but we envisage we will start exporting soon to a few selected markets.”

How is British food and drink is perceived globally? “Internationally renowned English chefs such as Mark Hix, Jason Atherton and Heston Blumenthal have helped to heighten the profile of British cuisine.”


Ella’s Kitchen

  • What: babyfood
  • Who and when: Paul Lindley founded Ella’s in 2006
  • Based: Henley, UK
  • Employees: 43
  • Listed: All major supermarkets and other independents

We say: “Ella’s Kitchen transformed the UK babyfood market when it launched its babyfood pouches, thanks to innovative packaging, inspired branding and great recipes.”

They say: “We are uncompromising on the quality of our ingredients and creativity of our recipes.”

Best business decision?” Investing in building a sustainable, unique and relevant brand rather than simply believing packaging and fantastic recipes would be enough.”

Any unexpected uses of your products?“Consumers have told us our foods have been used to nurse a chinchilla and some rabbits back to health, and provide daily fruit and veg to soldiers in Afghanistan.”

How important is ‘Britishness’? “Retailers are more focused on suppliers consistently delivering a quality, differentiated product that has an ethical story.”

Do you export? “We are in eight overseas markets.”

Who do you admire? “John Lewis and The Body Shop are inspirational.”



  • What: pies and quiches
  • Who and when: Camilla Stephens in 2003
  • Based: Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex
  • Employees: 150
  • Listed: Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Booths, Boots

We say: “Higgidy Pies are a cut above the norm and create a near-stampede in The Grocer o ce when samples arrive. The company has been at the forefront of the rejuvenation of the pie sector with strong branding and excellent quality.”

They say: “We were founded by Camilla Stephens, former head of food at Starbucks, who realised pies and quiches had had little in the way of innovation, and began making her own.”

What makes you special? “We set ourselves apart from larger manufacturers by not adopting highly processed manufacturing techniques and sticking to the methods you would use in your own kitchen.”

When did you realise you’d made it? “We took part in Sainsbury’s Supply Something New scheme in 2007 and were selected to launch two pies into 100 stores. It was the rst time we felt we could succeed in the multiples.”

Best business decision? “Persuading our partner Mark Campbell to join us. He has transformed the marketing, sales and commercial aspects of the business, and we’ve grown from £3m turnover to £12m.”

And the worst? “Taking such a long time to develop our new sweet pies, coming out later in the year.”

How British are you? “Most of our ingredients are sourced from Britain, but for a brand like ours we see that as a ‘given’.”


Genius Foods

  • What: gluten-free bread
  • Who and when: Launched by Lucinda Bruce- Gardyne in 2009
  • Based: Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Number of employees: 16
  • Listed: All major mutliples, and independents

We say: “Gluten-intolerant consumers, particularly coeliac disease sufferers, had longed for fresh bread, and Genius delivered it. This opened the door to a huge variety of gluten-free products from retailers and brands, including Warburtons, which now produces its own fresh gluten-free offering.”

They say: “I was desperate to create tasty bread for my gluten-intolerant son. I broke four ovens in the process of trying out different recipes in my own kitchen before hitting on the final Genius recipe.”

What makes you special? “Genius products are superior in taste and texture to other gluten-free products. We have the widest range of gluten-free products, and the quality is second to none.”

When did you realise you’d made it? “When Tesco signed the initial deal in 2009 to stock in 700 stores.”

Best business decision? “Introducing the bread to Sir Bill Gammell, founder of Cairn Energy and a coeliac himself. He is a major investor and this month became chairman of the company.”

And worst? “Waiting so long before taking the plunge.”

Are your products 100% British? “We import some ingredients but are looking into the viability of sourcing all ingredients from British suppliers.”

How important is ‘Britishness’?“Retailers are more and more conscious of the provenance of products.”

Do you export? “We’re sold in the US and Spain.”



  • What: craft beers
  • Who and when: James Watt and Martin Dickie launched the company in 2007
  • Based: Fraserburgh, near Aberdeen
  • Employees: 80
  • Listed: the big five

We say: “What’s not to love about the Ramones of the brewing industry? Creations have ranged from the 1.1% abv Nanny State to the The End of History, a 55% abv brew packaged in the stuffed bodies of animals. But there’s much more to Brewdog than gimmicks – their core beers are superb examples of their art.”

They say: “We decided to dedicate ourselves to making cool, contemporary and progressive beers. At heart, Brewdog is about offering an antidote to tasteless, fizzy, monolithic lager brands.”

When did you know you’d made it? “When the awards started to flood in from influencers in the industry. That’s when we realised there is a community of drinkers who support our commitment to a revolutionary craft beer scene.”

Best business decision? “Launching our share option scheme, Equity For Punks. We raised £2.2m from over 6,500 investors, which will help us build an awesome new brewery in Aberdeen. Among our shareholders are 17 under the age of six months, and two dogs!”

And the worst? “Not stung enough dead animals with beer.”

Are your products 100% British? “No, we import hops from all over the world as we believe in sourcing the best ingredients for the job.”

Do you export? “Yes, we are stocked in 27 countries outside the UK, exporting as far afield as Brazil and Japan.”

Name a British brand you admire: “Salty Dog crisps recognised a neglected sector and committed themselves to developing a range that would inject some flavour and love into supermarket shelves. They also go well with a pint of our Punk IPA.”