Husband and Wife Take North East Based Family Business Global

A family business set up in the North East to help independent British food and drink producers sell their produce online has gone global, just six months since its launch.

Husband and wife duo Melissa and Robert Ferguson, who are based in Sunderland, have launched their family business the Best British Produce amidst the first pandemic lockdown after witnessing first-hand how difficult travel restrictions made it to source their regular home comforts.

Initially stocking a mix of food and drink products from a handful of independent suppliers, the pair started the business from home but quickly took the decision to invest in their own business premises after just two months after seeing demand sky-rocket.

Six months on, the firm has continued to grow, selling hundreds of hampers and products to customers across the globe, from the UAE to the US and Australia and is again on the move, having received the keys to a new, 1,800 sq ft premises in Sunderland.

Co-founder and director Melissa said: “We set up the business to provide a platform for British food and drink suppliers to showcase and sell their products to customers across the globe after witnessing the impact the pandemic had on them.

“One of the things Robert and I enjoy doing in our spare time when he is home from work is taking our three little girls for days out and sampling new food and drink products, be it farm shops or visiting local villages in Northumberland and County Durham, and all of this ground to a halt during the first lockdown.

“We also saw how much of an effort our local businesses were putting in to supporting the community during the pandemic, delivering parcels and operating door-to-door services to those shielding, and we thought there had to be another way these brands could reach out to their customers. British food and drink is revered across the globe and so we thought, why not set up a website that gives our producers a platform to reach more customers?”

Best British Produce now stocks an array of products, ranging from sought-after spirits such as gin and whisky to English sparkling wines, confectionery and jams and spreads, with brands such as Cartwright & Butler, Peter’s Yard, Lottie Shaw’s and Mr Filbert’s just some of the brands on offer.

Robert added: “We officially launched in August and have already sold hundreds of hampers to customers all around the globe, we’ve been absolutely blown away by the response.

“Naturally, Christmas was our busiest period, and I think this was boosted further by people not being able to go out and visit shops, however I genuinely think a lot of it is down to people taking pride in shopping local and wanting to support independent family-owned businesses.

“We currently support over 50 brands from Cornwall up to the Highlands and would actively encourage any brands who would like to reach new audiences to get in touch. We’re always looking for new suppliers and are always willing to help the sector out whenever we can.”

Following the success of its Christmas promotion, the company has also launched a Bridgerton-inspired Mother’s Day range, jam-packed with quintessential British favourites such as Greyfriars English sparkling wine, Lottie Shaw’s gingerbread, old-fashioned sweet jars and a range of chocolate treats from Cocoa Ooze.

To coincide with the Mother’s Day range, the couple also caught up with Bridgerton actress and County Durham-born Ruth Gemmell, who plays the role of Lady Violet Bridgerton, to hear all about her fondest memories of growing up in the rural North East and how she has found life starring in the hit series.

Melissa added: “One of the things we were really keen to do when we set up the business was not only help people source their favourite food and drink produce, but also to learn more about the industry through our ‘My Best British Hamper’ interviews and it was great to have Ruth involved in our first of the series.

“Going forward, we’re hoping to build on this with a series of interviews, be it with famous faces, savvy chefs, the founders of the brands we work with and even our customers, to really drive home the benefits of buying British.”