Few businesses can claim to have played such a key role in the introduction and development of Spanish cuisine in the UK as Brindisa.

Now in its 35th year, Brindisa has grown from a small cheese importer to operating a state-of-the-art warehouse and distribution centre, a cheese and charcuterie delicatessen, a string of tapas bars and an online store.

Brindisa develops many of the products it sells, and in April received a gold award in the inaugural Farm Shop & Deli Product Awards for its beetroot gazpacho. For founder Monika Linton, the award is recognition of the quality of the business’ suppliers.

“It highlights the work our Spanish producers put in, making great traditional products as well as wonderful innovative products such as this gazpacho, and brings this quality to the attention of a wider audience,” she says.

And widening the audience for great Spanish food has long been Linton’s passion.

She lived and worked in Catalonia in the early 1980s, first as a chef de partie in Begur on the coast, and then as a language teacher around the inland villages of the Vic area. Returning to London after three years, she realised there was a gap in the UK market for the Spanish wines and cheeses she had come to enjoy.

Brindisa Monika Linton

Source: Brindisa

Monika Linton founded Brindisa in 1988 after spotting a gap in the UK market for Spanish food

Linton and her brother Mark Lavery, who had moved to Spain as she returned to the UK, began importing cheese and wine to assess how big that gap was. “Cheese won out as the line to follow. There was none in the UK,” she explains.

To bolster sales, the siblings added ambient lines such as Nunez de Prado olive oil, Ortiz anchovies and Navarrico piquillo peppers.

The business built slowly, mainly through sales to a few small retailers already familiar with Spanish foods, and through restaurants run by British chefs such as Mark Hix, Simon Hopkinson and Alastair Little.

“The early range was really chef-led and cheese-led,” says Linton. “These products didn’t need sophisticated packaging or brand identity as chefs needed catering sizes, and cheese is generally sold sliced from a counter.”

At that time, Spain was establishing itself as a new member of the EU and provider of quality products. Linton says it was clear to the Brindisa team this would bring opportunities for growth in the UK.

She tried to find wholesalers who would distribute Brindisa lines, but the limited demand made this difficult.

“Essentially, it was clear I could only open up the market by selling directly to retailers and chefs across the country, so they could hear first-hand what these ingredients were about,” she says.

A turning point came in 1992, when Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games, prompting many UK retailers to seek Spanish food. Businesses including Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason were among the high-profile stores who took on Brindisa’s cheeses and other lines.

As the only specialist supplier selling to UK retailers, Brindisa also benefited from media attention. “This gave us another boost of credibility in what was a very naive market,” says Linton. Many of those early stockists are still customers today.

“They have seen us move on from the early deliveries in a Peugeot 205 to chilled Brindisa-branded vans,” she adds.

A further step-change came in the late 1990s, when the business began importing cured meats.

“On the back of these volumes, we were able to specialise in more artisan cheese and eventually more artisan charcuterie as smaller producers became approved by the EU for export,” explains Linton.

Growing demand for preserved foods such as vegetables, fish, olives and oils also helped open the door to more retailers, chefs and regional distributors.

Brindisa shop interior

Source: Brindisa

Brindisa has a cheese and charcuterie delicatessen in Balham, south London

It was around this time Linton decided to further grow demand by moving into retail, opening one of the first retail outlets in Borough Market.

Today, Brindisa operates a Spanish cheese and charcuterie delicatessen in Balham, south London, where the business has a depot. It also has depots in Barcelona and the Midlands.

The management team is led by MD Heath Blackford, while Brindisa directors include Linton and her husband, Rupert. The business also employs specialists James Robinson and Rudi von Vollmar, who have worked with Linton since the early 1990s, and a team of operational managers including Lavery, who heads up the worldwide sales programme from Barcelona.

“We have targeted all routes to market, B2B and B2C, and we brand ranges that may not find their place in our market with their original labelling,” says Linton.

The Brindisa branded lineup includes the gazpacho range made by a specialist producer in Andalusia, who originally worked with the business on a recipe for a classic tomato gazpacho. It subsequently developed two more recipes: a tomato and almond gazpacho that bagged a bronze medal in the Farm Shop & Deli Product Awards and the gold-winning beetroot gazpacho.

Brindisa beetroot gazpacho

Source: Brindisa

Brindisa’s beetroot gazpacho won a gold medal in the Farm Shop & Deli Product Awards

“The recipe taps traditional ingredients, all sourced in Spain, with authentic Spanish flavours, but given a contemporary twist,” explains Linton. “The sweet earthiness of the beetroot is enhanced by fragrant cumin and balanced by the acidic notes of sherry vinegar.”

The business continues to seek out lesser-known products from Spain while developing its range of established classics.

“The quality of Spanish cheesemakers is remarkable and there are still many cheeses, particularly those made with sheep and goats’ milks, that we’d love to introduce to the UK,” Linton says. 

She adds that charcuterie made from game meats and beef are likely to be popular in the UK, but post-Brexit regulation is impacting sales of fish. “However, some of Spain’s pulses, beans, chickpeas and lentils really tap into the country’s oldest culinary traditions and are totally aligned with the growing desire for healthy, eco-friendly products.”

And Linton clearly has no doubts that her business will continue to find interesting food and drink for UK consumers and retailers. “One of the most exciting things about our business is that there are always new things to be discovered, new makers in Spain to learn about and an ever-growing audience.”



Entries are now open for the 2023 Farm Shop & Deli Product Awards, which highlight the best the specialist food market has to offer. The awards are open only to products sold in farm shops, delis and other specialist food retailers, and are judged by independent retailers, wholesaler buyers and other industry experts. To enter the awards or to register for the show, visit the Farm Shop & Deli Show website.