Interview | “The pandemic has pushed people back to buying local”

A conversation with Rob Hall, the founder of Bristol Pantry; Wriggle’s new local produce delivery venture

What’s the inspiration behind Bristol Pantry?

We’ve been running Wriggle for a number of years now, which is all about discovering great local restaurants, cafes and bars, but then the pandemic hit and we thought: how are we going to make use of all our partnerships and audience and still further our goal of getting people great local food and drink? So we came up with Bristol Pantry – instead of buying from lots of big brands, you have one shopping experience with lots of amazing, unique local producers: the local butcher, baker, gin distillery… 

Is demand increasing for this kind of shopping experience?

Yes; out of necessity during lockdown people were having to order stuff online and the pandemic has really pushed people back to buying local, even though now people are out and about. We now have 90 producers at Bristol Pantry selling hundreds of products on a weekly basis and next week we’re moving into our first warehouse.

Do you think there’s a lipstick effect happening?

For the people who still had stability in their jobs, they’ve actually had lots of disposable income and wanted to treat themselves whilst being ‘locked in’ – there was definitely a need for little pleasures during a bleak period. But structurally one of the long term changes of the pandemic is people aren’t going to city centres and high streets have been bolstered – I live in St Werburghs and our local high street is much busier.

Have you seen similar projects to Bristol Pantry happening elsewhere?

In the Wye Valley lots of local famers have grouped together and on certain days of the week people can go into Ross-on-Wye and buy produce from them. And you see local butchers and bakers extending their offering and partnering with other producers; if you go to a butchers now you can buy bread and other stuff as well. Some of that is temporary, but some of it is here to stay.

What is your favourite product on the Bristol Pantry website?

Good question – there’s really good, quality frozen stuff that’s so convenient to have in the freezer like gyozas from Eatchu and falafel from Yossi and really good ravioli. I’ve also got into handcrafted butter – I didn’t know it’s something I needed in my life.

Where is your favourite place to eat out in Bristol?

I love old man pubs with good beer selections like the Duke of York in St Werburghs and the Hillgrove over in Cotham – their Japanese pop-up, Kansai Kitchen, is really good. I’ll give a nod to Squeezed burgers on the casual end and then also the Cloak and Dagger on Gloucester Road – it’s a new opening and it’s really good, high-end cooking with amazing price points. 

What’s next for Bristol Pantry?

We’re looking at adding more delivery days, and we’re always getting new producers and adding to our range. People are already giving hampers, crates and packages as presents so Christmas should be an interesting time – beautiful food is a great present for family and friends.

Caitlin Bowring

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