Discover the secrets and motivations behind Lupa Foods’ 120-year trading history 

From pasta and rice to tomatoes and sweetcorn, Lupa Foods (Lupa) offers customers an extensive range of over 600 food products, sourced both domestically and globally. As a UK-based, business-to-business (B2B) supplier, Lupa is one of the longest-standing food importers to the UK. 

As a BRCGS certified importer it also provides comprehensive services, including technical assistance, procurement, new product development (NPD), and logistics. With exceptional service and support, alongside high-quality produce, it is unsurprising that Lupa is renowned among major food manufacturers, recipe box customers, and retailers throughout the UK. 

Formerly known as Donatantonio, the business was originally established in 1902 as a small Italian importer with a pioneering delicatessen shop in London. In 1963, it incorporated the Lupa brand into its product portfolio, which quickly became associated with the company’s high-quality produce from the Mediterranean region. 

The business has since transformed into a reputable partner in the food ingredient industry. Its dedication to quality produce, for example, was formerly acknowledged in 2001 with a Royal Warrant of Appointment as a Tradesman to the late HM Queen Elizabeth II; a status that remains intact today. 

Superior quality 

After the acquisition of Compleat Food Network in 2018, the business changed its name to its current version, Lupa Foods, with a vision to incorporate its brands under a single name. Ben Pearce, Purchasing Director, and Julian Key, Commercial Director, join us to discuss the company’s historical success and product range, as well as share their reflections on the current market. 

“Our range of food produce is incredibly diverse, as we have to cater to many different consumers with varying preferences,” Ben starts. “One of our key product lines is pasta. We collaborate with exclusive suppliers like Valdigrano, a family-owned business known for its passion and dedication to producing high-quality, authentic Italian pasta, to import over 13,000 metric tons of pasta to the UK every year. 

“Another main product line is tomato-based products, such as sauces, purees, and canned tomatoes,” he adds. “We source these from trusted suppliers across the Mediterranean and have been an M&S certified partner for processed tomato products for several years now. However, consistent heatwaves across Europe since 2015 mean that we must explore options beyond Europe, such as Turkish or Egyptian grown tomatoes, which are set for a record year in terms of growth.” 

Additionally, Lupa sources dairy products like cheese, butter, milk, and yogurt from within the UK, as well as frozen and canned processed vegetables, which are renowned for their convenience and lasting quality. With demand growing for plant-based protein sources, its range now incorporates a diverse selection of pulses, such as lentils, chickpeas, and beans. 

“In addition to our product range, we provide various services to support our customers’ needs,” says Ben. “Our logistics service, for example, manages a client’s entire supply chain, including importing, customs clearance, freight forwarding, and warehousing. We provide technical assistance too, helping our customers and suppliers with product formulation, recipe development, compliance, and troubleshooting. 

With a global and domestic sourcing network, Lupa’s expert team assists in NPD, creating innovative food products tailored to meet specific market demands or trends. “We strive to be a trusted partner for the food industry,” Ben states. “We support our customers not only through sourcing high-quality ingredients and produce, but also with reliable services that meet their evolving needs.” 

However, to ensure that products are of the highest quality, Lupa works closely with suppliers and is passionate about its sourcing processes, as well as quality assurance measures. Ben elaborates: “Our commitment to quality is a fundamental aspect of our business philosophy and is integral to our success as a trusted partner in the food industry. 

“Our network of trusted suppliers is crucial to maintaining quality, and we ensure that everyone we work with meets our strict criteria around quality, safety, and ethical practices. We carry out audits and evaluations of all our suppliers to assess their facilities, production, and quality control measures, so that they adhere to our own rigorous standards, as well as industry regulations. 

“Part of these evaluations includes product sampling and laboratory testing, which analyzes factors like microbiological safety, nutritional content, and sensory attributes,” he details. “We also have a dedicated quality control team and maintain thorough documentation and traceability systems throughout our supply chain.” 

Customer centric 

Having occupied a key position in the food industry for just over 120 years, Lupa has many long-term, strategic partnerships and has remained relevant through continuous improvement and innovation. “Our mission is to be an essential supplier of quality ingredients to the food industry, so we grow and build our business around the success of our customers,” says Ben. 

“Our whole business is focused on being customer centric, which means we must truly understand our customers’ needs and then work to find solutions that meet their requirements,” agrees Julian. “Finding unique products and packaging formats for some of our recipe box clients, for example, has enabled us to grow rapidly alongside them.” 

As the business grows and adapts to suit twenty-first-century consumers, it must address environmental concerns. In May 2023, Lupa achieved business certification through Planet Mark, an organization brought onboard to help measure and reduce the company’s carbon emissions. Recently, in partnership with FareShare, the company reached a meal distribution milestone of 100,000 meals. Furthermore, by adopting a number of other initiatives, it has also managed to ensure that none of its food products are sent to landfill. Besides these factors, it is also a member of the SME Climate Hub, a global initiative empowering small to medium businesses to take climate action. 

Ben adds: “A specific example of our sustainability efforts is our collaboration with Valdigrano on plastic reduction. Together, we have taken significant strides to reduce the plastic waste associated with our pasta packaging imports and have achieved a projected annual reduction of 15 tons of plastic. 

“We have a technical team dedicated to the exploration of innovative strategies to further reduce plastic usage in our packaging, and are actively engaged in alternative material research, potential packaging redesigns, and optimizing manufacturing processes with our suppliers,” he explains. 

Continued success 

“We take particular pride in our unique partnership with our largest pasta supplier, Valdigrano, and with outstanding service, quality, and commercials, we can see significant opportunities to expand our scale and customer base in this area,” Julian proposes. 

“Tomatoes are another area of potential opportunity due to weather conditions continuing to challenge the availability and pricing of the European crop. We will continue to explore the expansion of supply into Turkey and Egypt, which should enable us to limit cost increases and find effective solutions.” 

Julian concludes: “We currently have exciting projects underway, particularly with noodles and rice, and we are always keen to expand our product portfolio into other areas to meet the demands of both our existing and new customers. 

With a proven business model, positive relationships with suppliers and customers, and a clear strategy supported by strong values, there appears no shortage of opportunities for Lupa to grow and succeed further in 2023 and beyond.