BUSINESS PROFILE – Artisan Smokehouse
The luxury of lockdown
Essential Suffolk explores the pandemic positives for luxury hamper providers Artisan Smokehouse
When Gill bought Tim a semi-professional smoker, little did she realise that this thoughtful gift would completely change both their lives. The couple run and own the multi award-winning Artisan Smokehouse, which opened its doors ten years ago producing a delicious range of smoked foods and beautiful hampers. Of course the route wasn’t quite so simple; there were many experiments, several expensive mistakes and a number of smokers, but eventually food-loving Tim's hobby turned into a business and today it’s based around their online shop, attending regional and national events and supplying hampers for both individuals and businesses.
In 2014 the need to expand meant considering new premises and they eventually moved to Goose Barn, Falkenham complete with a new commercial kitchen, smokehouse, and a small deli and café serving delicious charcuterie and cheese platters, wine and beer. “Of course the COVID-19 pandemic has meant we’ve had to temporarily close the café side of the business” explained Tim “however the hampers have never been busier – it’s like Christmas but with no end date!”
But in the early weeks of lockdown business took an unexpected turn. “We realised that we could be part of the much needed home-delivery network. We stock basic provisions like milk and pasta but also bread flour and yeast which if you recall were like gold dust”. And so ‘Local Free Fridays’ was launched, with no delivery cost in the immediate IP10 and IP11 areas. Tim continued “Although demand has certainly reduced since the easing of lockdown, we’d like to think that a positive legacy of Corona Virus will be the public’s renewed appreciation for small local businesses. We hope that not everyone will drift back to the major supermarkets now that they’ve discovered providers like us – butchers, bakers, farm shops and delis – that were invaluable in their time of need.”
But at the other end of the scale from these basic provisions, the demand for Artisan Smokehouse Luxury Hampers has been off the scale. Their values are straightforward; tried, tested, ethically sourced British produce, only importing when a quality British provider can’t be sourced. “We’re only interested in providing the very best that we can find. Gill has an exceptional eye for detail and ensures the presentation is exquisite whether you’re spending £20 or £200”.
Each hamper is carefully packaged in a bespoke, black, handmade box (also British made) and as may contain fresh and perishable items the day of delivery can be specified. Of course a message card is also included. “The personal messages we’ve been sending from givers to recipients throughout these strange and challenging times have been really emotive” says Tim. “Everything from love and loss to humour and congratulations – we’ve all been through the ringer and somehow food seems to bring people together”.
But it’s not just the personal gift giving that’s been driving Tim and Gill’s business, as corporate hampers have been an inventive way for companies to show staff and clients how much they’re valued and to unite them too. “We had a significant order from one of the high street banks for breakfast hampers for staff. It meant they could all meet remotely via the internet but at the same time share their goodies and feel truly valued, it was a huge success.”
And with increased demand the creative juices have also been flowing with new products being stocked including, chilli-smoked haloumi and, soon to be available, biltong. Newly themed hampers include the French Feast Hamper, The Mediterranean Hamper, Vegan Meze, Vegetarian options, Chilli Meats… the list goes on. There’s also a new completely sustainable hamper on the way with every effort made to use biodegradable and fully recyclable packaging.
“We’re extending our cheese selection too and offer Smoked Stilton, Smoked Cheddar, Smoked Goats Cheese and Smoked Haloumi plus Parmesan, Truffle Gouda, Morbier, Snowdonia Black Bomber, Comte and Weydeland. Then of course we also have all the accompanying preserves and crackers”.
Although they’re not ready to reopen the café and deli quite yet, the 2020 story of Artisan Smokehouse is one of positive out of crisis. The dedication Tim and Gill have shown to making the most of the opportunities they could see has meant they’ve been able to keep their café staff furloughed while taking on the extra work themselves. For a full list of the meat, cheese, fish and pantry products available visit artisansmokehouse.co.uk - you can even create your own bespoke hamper!