Family business Grasmere Gingerbread has been named the Large Independent Retailer of the Year at the Speciality & Fine Food Fair Awards in London.

Despite occupying a small 6ft square shop, the 169-year-old Lake District business impressed judges with its exceptional customer service and commitment to future-proofing the sector.

Grasmere Gingerbread was praised for its efforts during the Covid-19 pandemic, during which it collaborated with suppliers to create new products for online customers.

The company recently opened new offices and a second shop in Hawkshead.

Grasmere Gingerbread, invented in 1854, is enjoyed by celebrities, royalty, and customers worldwide.

The prestigious award is the result of more than 20 years of dedication from Joanne and Andrew Hunter, the third generation of their family to own and manage the business.

Since taking over in 2000, the couple has expanded the original shop into a successful enterprise with two locations, a year-round opening schedule, 26 employees, and a busy mail-order service.

The company has even diversified into wedding favours, ginger-flavoured food products, and ginger-themed gifts, most of which are sourced locally in Cumbria.

Eamont and Eden Rose Hunter, the couple's children, collected the trophy on behalf of their parents at the ceremony.

Joanne and Andrew expressed their pride in continuing the legacy of Sarah Nelson, the Victorian cook who invented Grasmere Gingerbread.

“Since we took over in 2000 we have always honoured the ethos and legacy of Sarah Nelson by growing her original business into something she could be proud of today,” said Andrew.

Judges of the Speciality & Fine Food Fair Awards commended the business for its community initiatives and its ability to adapt during challenging times.

A spokesman for the awards said: “Grasmere Gingerbread keeps Cumbria’s rich culinary history alive and thriving.

“During the Covid pandemic, when many small outlets were hit by a major collapse in sales after local markets and shows were cancelled, Grasmere Gingerbread invested time and energy with suppliers to produce new products for online customers.”

Joanne called the award win a "fantastic fillip for the entire team at Grasmere Gingerbread."