Behind the scenes at the Peak District Deli online shop
PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 December 2019
Meet Lauren and Ralph Wilson, a couple who are determined to make delectable local produce accessible and affordable
Peak District Deli is a small company making its mark by promoting locally produced food, drink and gifts. The business creates everything from pop-up suppers, wedding and private dining catering to supplying welcome hampers to holiday cottages. It is Peak District Deli's online shop, however, that lies at the heart of its business, selling a range of high quality food, drink and gifts, all exclusively produced in the Peak District.
Lauren and Ralph Wilson set up their business just over two years ago and launched their online shop six months later. Beginning with just 25 producers, they now work with nearly 50, all carefully chosen for their exceptional quality products and high animal welfare standards.
Inspiration for Peak District Deli came from Lauren and Ralph's wish to eat quality locally produced meat and vegetables but with the convenience that comes with modern shopping. Lauren says, 'As a family and busy with work, it wasn't always convenient for us to go to monthly farmers' markets or visit individual farms to source our food. We wanted to give local people the opportunity to shop locally and at competitive prices that are the same as leading supermarkets charge.'
By establishing Peak District Deli they were able to offer quality local produce from meat and dairy products and artisan breads to chocolates, coffee, conserves, condiments, gins, wines and beers, as well as chopping boards, skincare products and candles. They are also one of the first retailers to be selling the brand new Chatsworth Gin. Customers order online and their items are then personally delivered to their home by Ralph. Although minimal packaging is used, there is the option to have any packaging taken away, which is then either re-used or recycled.
For Lauren and Ralph their online shop is not only about bringing convenience to their customers but promoting the Peak District producers whose products they sell. Ralph says, 'The majority of the producers we use are small scale. They may not necessarily have a shop window of their own but just rely on passing trade so our online shop expands their reach. We promote our producers in everything we do - it's a very important part of what we do.'
One of the challenges of running an online shop can be marketing it to a wider audience, so Lauren and Ralph use their pop-up supper clubs to help promote it. The pop-ups involve Peak District Deli hosting a supper at one of their producers' venues. Working in collaboration with the venue - previously Peak Ales, The Gathering at Edale, Lane End Farm Trust and White Peak Distillery - Lauren creates a four-course dinner menu that features ingredients from as many of Peak District Deli's producers as possible.
However, do not expect your typical dining experience as guests book their tickets without knowing what the menu will be, although allergens and dietary requirements are fully catered for. Lauren says, 'Coming to one of our events is so different to going to a restaurant. We don't book tables for two but have tables of six or more so you have to be prepared to sit and chat with people you don't yet know! It's a much more sociable way of dining.' Many diners have often made new friends by the end of the evening.
Ralph is responsible for front-of-house and welcomes guests before introducing the evening's menu and the different producers that will be featured. At each supper one of the featured producers is invited along to give a short talk between courses - a recent one was an account of a year in the life of a Peak District sheep farmer. Lauren says, 'People now are looking more for experiences and for us it's equally about promoting producers and shouting out about the area, trying to get the Peak District and Derbyshire on the food map.'
Lauren, a professional chef, cooks the dishes and brings her extensive experience of the hospitality and catering industry to the business. She previously ran pubs in Greenwich, managed a guest house when living in India, ran a restaurant in Spain, organised fine dining event catering in Oxfordshire, and set up a street food business selling churros, which are Spanish-style doughnuts.
Lauren says, 'I like to do things a little bit differently, but nothing too different! It's always a challenge to create a menu that everyone will enjoy as we all have different tastes.' At one pop-up Lauren decided to make a dish with lamb breast. She says, 'When I ordered lots of lamb breasts for one pop-up supper the butcher found it quite bemusing because people don't eat it anymore as it's not in fashion! At the end of the evening one of the guests said that the dish was amazing and that she was a lamb convert despite having not liked the meat before.'
Peak District Deli is keen to focus on seasonal produce and will soon be adding pheasant, grouse and partridge to its poultry selection. Ralph says, 'The local shoot got in touch with us to see if we wanted to use the birds, which have been reared on open moorland. For us it's about nothing being wasted, but being eaten.'
With a focus on ethical and sustainable food, Peak District Deli will even collect any end-of-shelf items from their producers, which they will deliver to local food banks. Ralph says, 'We want to make sure that food doesn't go to waste and that people who are less fortunate have the opportunity to eat amazing local food.'
Not only do Lauren and Ralph promote their various producers at every opportunity, but they are keen to encourage networking and collaboration. To this end twice yearly get-togethers are organised, usually at a Derbyshire pub, where producers can meet one another. Following one of these events, the Peak District Mushroom Farm in Bakewell is trialling using the spent grains from Buxton Roastery and already uses the hops from Peak Ales to grow mushrooms.
Meanwhile, with Christmas just around the corner, Peak District Deli is busy putting together its selection of Christmas Day and Boxing Day hampers. A few of the many items include beef from EW Coates in Darley Dale, bread from Bakewell's Wye Bakehouse, Brock and Morten's mustard mayonnaise, Bircher Blue cheese made by Matteo Frau, sparkling wine from Renishaw Hall, Christmas pudding truffles from Holdsworths and Peak District's Deli's very own coffee, blended in collaboration with Buxton Roastery. Even the hampers are made locally by Willow Direct in Cromford. For each Christmas Day hamper sold Peak District Deli donates a percentage to Challenge Derbyshire, a charity which raises money for Ashgate Hospicecare, Blythe House Hospice and Helen's Trust.
Lauren and Ralph juggle their business with bringing up their four-year-old twins at their home near Youlgrave. Any spare moments are spent walking and camping in the Peak District whilst Lauren enjoys wild swimming in the River Lathkill. Ralph says, 'It's a joy to be out in this incredible landscape that is always changing. Derbyshire people are warm and friendly - you only have to wander into a pub and people will start talking to you.'
It is this community spirit and love of all things local that is at the heart of Peak District Deli's ethos as it champions not only Derbyshire products but the artisan businesses too.
For details about Peak District Deli including its pop-up Christmas suppers, festive hampers and online shop as well as its wedding and private event catering visit peakdistrictdeli.com