Although there is a lot of uncertainty right now, one thing’s for sure – this global pandemic has affected each and every one of us in some way or other.
With the country, to all intents and purposes, shut down, there are many independent brands desperately feeling the effects right now.
The good news is that we can all do our bit to help some of the wonderful farmers, growers and producers in the UK, by buying from them directly.
From the wholesalers that have pivoted to direct-to-consumer models in just a few days, to the brands supporting our incredibly hard-working NHS staff, what the current Covid-19 crisis has taught us is that small brands can be an incredibly resilient and inspirational bunch – and now is the time to show our support.
In the same vein, Great British Wine is urging us to support the English and Welsh wine industry (many of which are reliant on selling direct to restaurants) by buying a bottle directly from a vineyard or retailer instead.
This might be the one nearest to you, one that you particularly like, or just one you’ve been meaning to try for a while. Now’s the time! There’s a great list of wineries and specialist retailers (many with special offers) to shop from.
From everyday essentials like pasta and coffee to sweet treats that will brighten someone’s day, these are the independent brands to support right now.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
The Red Beetle: From £1.95
This brand is a one-stop shop for the very best Italian produce, with the founder Deborah ordinarily travelling the country in her vintage red VW Beetle sourcing regional stock. However, with Milan still on lockdown, Deborah has found herself with a warehouse full of the finest Italian goodies – pasta, posh pesto, tinned tomatoes, truffle crisps, divine extra virgin olive oil – in short, all of the things we’re struggling to find on our shelves here in the UK. So, we’d suggest forgoing that hellish trip to the supermarket and ordering directly from The Red Bettle. Delivery is free on orders over £25, and will be with you within days. If you spend £25 or more, delivery is free.
The Tomato Stall: From £19.50 for 3kg box
This week the tomatoes from Isle of Wight will be harvesting the first crop of the season, with most them usually heading to restaurants. Obviously, this won’t be happening given the current situation, so instead, The Tomato Stall is putting together these gorgeous mixed boxes that can be delivered anywhere in the UK. With our local shop being perpetually out of the tinned stuff, we’ll be whizzing these up into fresh pasta sauces, turning them into tasty salads and transforming them into salsas – and any tomatoes you don’t think you’ll use could be bagged up and left on your neighbour’s doorstep. Delivery is £3.50 or free on orders more than £25.
The Roasting Shed: From £10 for a weekly or fortnightly subscription
Before coronavirus hit, The Roasting Shed operated on a wholesale basis, selling direct to restaurants. However, luckily for us, it has now launched a consumer coffee subscription service, and for each purchase, The Roasting Shed is donating a free bag of coffee to an NHS worker or vulnerable person.
Based in Hackney Wick, (alongside fab neighbours such as Crate Brewery, Silo and Jarr Kombucha) the speciality coffee beans are roasted in small batches – and we can confirm, taste divine. Available in a variety of grinds, we’re a particular fan of La Familia, with notes of caramel, red grape and chocolate.
Brewgooder: From £6 for a donation or £20 for a 12-pack of lager or IPA
Brewgooder is an independent beer brand and social enterprise dedicated to using its profits to improve lives – primarily through the funding of clean water projects in developing countries.
However, in light of Covid-19 it has launched the “one on us” campaign, donating beer at cost and giving customers the opportunity to pay-forward a four-pack with a message of support for our NHS heroes to claim at random when they are ready to. The brand has also partnered with Karma drinks to provide a non-alcoholic cola option.
Since launching the initiative, it has had more than 1,500 packs paid forward and nearly 10,000 NHS staff have registered to receive a pack. Anyone can participate by donating £6 and submitting a message of support at one on us – the donation amount covers all the costs associated with brewing, packing and delivering a four-pack with a message to an NHS worker. Cheers!
Pip & Nut: From £2.35
For food banks up and down the country, now is a particularly busy time with donations desperately needed. Pip, founder of Pip & Nut, wanted to support a local organisation like Hackney food bank, which has been giving out more than 500 emergency packages to people in need each week. In order to help, she launched the “one from you, one from us” initiative where you can purchase a jar of natural nut butter (which is a great source of protein) and the brand will match it. There’s already been more than 3,000 jars donated so far. Delivery is free.
Jimmy’s Iced Coffee: From £8 for a 4-pack of coffee cola / £18 for a 12-pack of iced coffee
With the weather promising to warm up over the coming weeks, we can’t think of a better way to get out of our working-from-home funk than with an icy cold caffeine fix. So far, the brand has very quietly given away 40,000 iced coffees to NHS workers. There’s nothing on the website shouting about this, which is why we’re giving you the heads up. Whether you prefer yours with oat milk, with a cheeky chocolate shot, or straight up, right now, it’s three-for-two on all cases of 12 and delivery is completely free over £15.
Original Beans: From £4.35 for a single bar
Making award-winning chocolate from the rarest cacao beans in the world, Original Beans is a wonderful business that replenishes what it consumes and pays growers twice the Fairtrade price. You can even track your tree while tucking into your chocolate bar. It offers a wide range of flavours and we love the descriptive tasting notes – such as “raspberry, dried prunes and pecan” found in the ultra-rare Peruvian Nacional.
Mr Lee’s Noodles: From £12 for a pack of six
Damien Lee, CEO and founder of Mr Lee’s Noodles, is undergoing his 75th cancer treatment during the coronavirus pandemic. However, rather than let that get him down, Mr Lee’s Noodles is doing its bit by donating thousands of noodles to hospitals so that NHS staff are able to eat a nutritious meal while working double shifts.
The noodles are free from any nasties, low in calories and high in protein – so a pretty great addition to your store cupboard – and for each box you buy, the brand donates to frontline staff. Should you need any more convincing, the coconut chicken laksa recently won a great taste award.
Positive Bakes: From £14.75 for a box of six cakes
Originally supplying the food service sector, husband and wife team Aatin and Helen Anadkat have reinvented their family-owned cake company into Positive Bakes. Designed to cheer up those in isolation, all the tasty bakes are gluten-free and plant-based with detailed allergens listed, so are suitable for absolutely everyone you know!
To sweeten the deal, it’s also matching every single purchase with a like for like bake and donating on customers’ behalf to the NHS frontline staff and volunteers. The only difficult bit is deciding between luxury banana cake or the decadent brownies. Delivery is £5, nationwide.
La Tua Pasta: From £3
Loved among chefs and restaurants across the country, fresh pasta from specialists La Tua Pasta is now available online for the first time, with nationwide delivery. The gnocchi filled with tomato and mozzarella is a particular favourite, but you can also buy a variety of plain pasta shapes, ravioli and sauces. For every meal ordered, it’ll also be donating a meal to the NHS. If you spend £30 or more, you’ll get free delivery.
The verdict: Independent food brands
It’s hard to pick just one brand to support right now, and with each offering something completely different, we’d argue they all deserve our Best Buy. However, if you’re fed up of empty supermarket shelves and waiting in a virtual queue for hours on end – The Red Beetle will be able to sort you out in minutes.