Brothers Rick and Jim Altham say their Supper Club frozen meals venture is “more than just a brand – it’s a labour of love”.

That love is reflected in the quality of the products, which last year scooped six golds at the Farm Shop & Deli Product Awards and won much praise from the event’s panel of judges.

Launched in 2022, Supper Club is produced by Althams Fine Foods, part of the Althams Butchers business founded in 1856 by farmer Thomas Altham. Originally operating from a single shop in Morecambe, it later expanded with more shops and a wholesale meat business.

Rick and Jim are the fifth generation of the family to run Althams Butchers, which now focuses on wholesale, supplying restaurants, hotels and football clubs. Being born into a family of farmers and butchers gave them a passion for food from a young age, the brothers say. 

Jim joined the business full-time in 1994 and became MD in 2000, after his father decided to dedicate more time to farming. Rick worked in farming before joining Althams as operations manager.

Rick & Jim Web Shot

Source: Althams Butchers

Rick and Jim Altham are the fifth generation of their family to run the business

In 2015, Althams Butchers, having acquired the building across the road from the butchers, created ready meals supplier Althams Fine Foods. Its first customer was Booths, for whom Althams still produces many own-label ready meals. It also makes crew meals for airlines and a variety of lines for other brands.

When the Covid pandemic hit, the brothers saw a gap in the market for restaurant-quality frozen meals. So, using their knowledge from supplying meat to restaurants and the expertise of in-house development chef Gav Williams, they created Supper Club.

“Every meal that has been developed has been taste-tested and reworked until we are all in agreement that it tastes better than any other version on the market,” says Supper Club sales manager Erin Dust. “We wanted to create some of the staple meals and dinners people would usually cook themselves at home.”

Most of the meat used in the Supper Club meals is sourced from Althams’ own butchery. All of it is British. The majority of veg in the dishes comes from Ribble Valley, while Althams uses local suppliers for ingredients as much as possible.

SC LS Lasagne (2)

Source: Althams Butchers

The first meal produced under the Supper Club brand was a lasagne

The Altham brothers grew up with an Italian grandma, so the first meal launched under the Supper Club brand was lasagne made with pork and beef mince, a ragu containing Italian red wine, a béchamel white sauce and pasta sheets made with free-range egg. The retail price of the lasagne is £5.50 for a single-serve 400g portion and £19 for 1.6kg.

“The beauty of being linked to the butchers is that the meat for the Supper Club lasagne is freshly minced just before the meals are made, so it is as fresh as can be before we freeze it,” says Dust.

Supper Club made its debut in May 2022, selling online directly to consumers through a dedicated website.

“This is still a really important channel for us and, being a small team, we have built up relationships with some of our regular home customers,” Dust adds.

Among the original retail stockists of the brand were Greenlands Farm in Carnforth, Kenyon Hall Farm in Warrington and Broughton Market, Edinburgh.

Supper Club launched its first major marketing push at the Farm Shop & Deli Show in April 2023, where the winners of the annual Farm Shop & Deli Product Awards were announced. Supper Club was awarded gold for its lasagne and five other meals: Cottage Pie, Three Bean Chilli, Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Hot Pot and Macaroni Cheese & Pancetta.

The Team @ Farm Shop & Deli Show

Source: Althams Butchers

Supper Club made its first marketing push at the 2023 Farm Shop & Deli Show

“Getting the six gold awards felt incredible,” says Dust. “We really believe in our products, but when experts in the area also feel the same, it gives us a great sense of achievement and confidence in the brand.”

The Farm Shop & Deli Show led to big success for Supper Club, she adds. “We more than doubled our independent stockists off the back of the show and also gained listings with Cotswold Fayre, and Spar wholesaler James Hall.”

Since then, the Supper Club range has doubled in size and is set to expand into puddings and pies in coming months. A brand tool kit has also been developed so the business has better branding options to offer retail customers.

With just 18 months on the market, brand awareness is still relatively low, says Dust, but the business is developing and growing as it increases its audience and product range. “We see Supper Club eventually being a staple brand in everyone’s freezers but with different purposes,” she says. “For some people it might be their regular evening meal, for some a treat night and for others a ‘just in case’ meal.”

Part of the brand-building work will be entering the 2024 Farm Shop & Deli Product Awards, and Dust admits Supper Club has set itself a high bar. “We’ve created a bit of pressure to try to get another six this year.”