Skip to main content
04 Dec 2023

Meet the award winner: Large Independent Retailer of the Year Grasmere Gingerbread

Meet the award winner: Large Independent Retailer of the Year Grasmere Gingerbread

Speciality & Fine Food Fair speaks to Joanne Hunter, Director at Grasmere Gingerbread®, following the company winning Large Independent Retailer of the Year at the 2023 Speciality & Fine Food Fair Awards.

How did it feel for Grasmere Gingerbread® to win ‘Large Independent Retailer of the Year’ at Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2023?

Everyone at Grasmere Gingerbread® was thrilled to have been formally acknowledged by such a prestigious national food organisation.                                                                                         

Tell us a little about Grasmere Gingerbread®

Grasmere Gingerbread® is unique; a spicy-sweet cross between a biscuit and cake. It was invented in 1854 by Victorian cook Sarah Nelson inside her Church Cottage home - now The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop - and is still only baked here 362 days a year to her original secret recipe. The business is comprised of four interlocking elements: a dedicated food producer, a shop and tourist attraction, a bespoke mail order operation, and an events programme attending shows, country fairs and food festivals across the country, as well as pop-ups at farm shops and delicatessens working collaboratively with such hosts.

How have you evolved the business since taking it on in 2000?

Since taking over Grasmere Gingerbread® in 2000, we have grown the business exponentially, increased our workforce from 4 to 30, created a vibrant ‘Sarah Nelson’ product brand by working collaboratively with artisan suppliers in the region, greatly expanded international sales and throughout acted as a culinary ambassador for Cumbria and the Lake District.  We recently opened a second successful shop in Hawkshead selling takeaway artisan coffee, Grasmere Gingerbread® and other ginger-flavoured foodstuffs and gifts.

Grasmere Gingerbread

What does it mean to be an independent retailer?

It means we can be US. Grasmere Gingerbread® has a unique identity and great soul. We offer people an experience that they cannot get anywhere else. Being an independent retailer means we are not restricted in what we make and how we deliver our products and services to our loyal customers in the UK and overseas. We enjoy complete quality control over our processes and procedures and pride ourselves on maintaining the highest standards across the board.

What is your approach to customer service and connecting with your local community?

Our approach to customer service is personal and personable. We value each customer as an individual and always strive to meet and exceed their expectations. Co-director Joanne Hunter regularly posts e-newsletters to customers and responds to replies in person. These relationships are highly valued and epitomise the hands-on approach of Grasmere Gingerbread®. By working collaboratively with other artisan producers, Grasmere Gingerbread® helps to strengthen the local economy. As a visitor attraction it helps to boost trade in cafes, pubs and other shops. The business also supports and raises significant funds for numerous local charities including Cumbria Wildlife Trust, The Lake District Foundation and Shelter.

How do you approach choosing products to stock and suppliers to work with?

We only stock local suppliers’ foodstuffs and goods if they are either handmade or home-made. Ninety per cent of the products we stock are from small, family or artisan businesses in Cumbria and the Lake District. Grasmere Gingerbread® is committed to protecting and enhancing Cumbria’s rich food history tradition.    

Grasmere Gingerbread

Do you have anything exciting coming up in 2024 you’d like to mention?

Grasmere Gingerbread® celebrates its 170th anniversary in 2024 and is planning a programme of commemorative events - watch this space!  

Find out more about Grasmere Gingerbread Shop at


View all News