Grasmere Gingerbread is a Lakeland institution which hardly needs any introduction for locals and visitors alike.

At nearly 170 years old, it is a world-famous food manufacturer, shop, tourist attraction and bespoke mail order operation.

The business produces 2.5m pieces of gingerbread each year and has 17 full-time and six part-time roles, several of which were created post-Covid.

In recent years the business has created a range of related products under the ‘Sarah Nelson’ brand, many produced by other local family businesses and artisan suppliers.

A new on-site marketing and administration hub is also being created to free up the existing office to focus on the business’s growing e-commerce wing.

Throughout 2022, the business has been consolidating its new structure and developing new products named in honour of its original founder Sarah Nelson.

During the pandemic in 2020/21 parcel volumes and mail order revenues increased by nearly 150 per cent as the business offset lost footfall sales at its shop with online orders to loyal customers.

Now that normal trade conditions have returned, the business’s annual seven to 10 per cent growth trajectory has resumed.

The business plans to invest in research and development to produce gluten-free and vegan alternatives and extend the shelf life of products through improved packaging.

The in-Cumbria judges said: “The current owners of the business have had to deal with significant challenges over the last few years starting with the isolation of the business caused by Storm Desmond and, not too long after, the Covid pandemic. These situations could have been disastrous. However the owners adapted and pivoted to overcome adversity and move forward by concentrating on positive proactive actions whilst ensuring all their staff were looked after during these difficult periods in time.

“They have successfully integrated the traditional history of the business together with the modern aspects, whilst continually looking to develop their product range whilst being very conscious of ensuring everything wherever possible is environmentally friendly. They certainly look like they are future proofing the business for the next generations and as such are a deserving winner.’’

Joanne Hunter, who is co-director of the business alongside husband Andrew, said: "It was a lovely night and a really great atmosphere. It's so lovely to be back out and reconnecting with people and other Cumbrian businesses. It's a great county but we're quite spread out as businesses. I think things like this are really important because it brings us together. It's a great opportunity to come together to celebrate, to network and it makes you feel like you're not alone.”

Runners up:

REACT Engineering

Realise HR