Urban Pantry celebrates a year of trustworthy products

Urban Pantry, a food delicatessen in Crookes, Sheffield, celebrated its first anniversary on Saturday 23 March 2013. Sheffield Unchained decided to visit the shop to see how Urban Pantry had grown since our last visit in May 2012.

We met up with owner and manager Reece Lippolis to talk about how the celebrations had gone and how Urban Pantry was developing a year on.

Proudly declaring themselves as a ‘haven for foodies and a converting point for sceptics’, Reece’s partner Grace Discombe explained the thinking behind their name:

“We wanted to show how the country meets the city. ‘Pantry’ has a country sound to it and refers to farmers markets, which reflects our aim of bringing food into the city for people who don’t have time to get out into the country.”

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Why local?

Urban Pantry stocks mainly local produce from local suppliers in the Yorkshire region. We spoke to Reece, 32, about why they choose to stock local produce and the benefits of independents to the community. Reece believes that bringing local produce onto the high streets is important as it ensures that money is invested back into the area. “The bigger companies tend to filter their money out of the area, so you don’t see any benefit from them being there.”

Reece also believes that a greater community spirit is created through independents, “We have a big involvement with the community and we know a lot of the people who come into our shop.”

Listen to a clip from our interview here:

Greater scrutiny at times of mistrust

After a year of focusing on setting up the business, Urban Pantry are now starting to visit all their suppliers so that they can see how their products are made and what is put into them.

“Just after Christmas we went up to near Holmfirth to see one of our cheeses being produced. We watched it being made and there’s no chance of me buying a product now that isn’t going to get this inspection from myself or Grace or one of the staff members. It feels really good to be part of it and to see how that person really cares about that product,” said Reece.

Grace, 39, said that independents tend to care more about the customer’s enjoyment of the food, which is something that bigger companies are removed from. She said, “Being much closer to the source of the food also makes you more interested in the quality.”

Reece admits that there are products on their shelves that aren’t from the local region:

“This is because we want to make sure we have a good selection of all the types of food that a deli should have. But we will be honest and say where they are from and the products we get in from abroad are of very high quality.”

Criteria for a good supplier

Urban Pantry always tries samples of their products before stocking them and they often let their customers decide whether they are desired. Listen to a clip from our interview where Reece talks about his criteria for choosing a good supplier:

Can we trust our food?

Urban Pantry often holds taster days on Saturdays where customers can try products for free and sometimes meet the supplier. Reece believes this is an important way of convincing customers that a local cheese or local meat is of better quality and nicer than the cheap deals they can get from supermarkets. He believes that customers simply need to have a chance to compare the products they usually buy from a supermarket with local products. He said he often gives customers a bit of cheese to take home and compare with their supermarket cheese. Reece said they always end up coming back because they had nothing to compare with before. He also believes it is important to be able to prove that there has been no tampering with the products and that customers are getting what they ask for:

“Being independent means we can create a personal relationship between us, our suppliers and our customers. I think customers like the fact that there are independents in Sheffield, especially in the current climate. A lot of people have seen how much big companies are taking over and they are losing trust in companies like that. If they can speak to people like me and ask me where a product has come from I’m going to give them an honest answer.”

Listen to what Reece had to say about the importance of trust in a clip from our interview here:

Sheffield as a foodie destination

Reece believes that the independent scene in Sheffield is growing and that independent food shops are on the rise. “People really want to try and find out where their food is from and they want it to be local.” Reece believes that the new producers and new independent shops are starting to make Sheffield a foodie destination. Listen to the full clip here:

You can find out more about Urban Pantry on their website and keep up to date with their products on their facebook page.