Spanish Passion - a taste of the Mediterranean in Warrington

Loretta and Stephen Penketh with a range of products

Loretta and Stephen Penketh with a range of products - Credit: Archant

Warrington is the slightly unlikely base for a Mediterranean food revolution, as Paul Mackenzie reports

A couple from Warrington are bringing a taste of the Mediterranean to kitchens across the country. Stephen and Loretta Penketh have combined their business connections in Spain with their love of that country’s food and wine to prove there is more to Spanish cuisine than omelette and paella.

Contacts they had made through working in Europe for Stephen’s family storage and distribution firm are now providing artisan Spanish food which is proving a hit with British palates.

Stephen said: ‘We love Spain and Spanish food and we noticed there was a gap in the market. There was a lot of Italian and Indian food and ingredients and ready meals in the supermarkets but hardly anything from Spain, even though five of the top restaurants in the world are in Spain and tapas has grown in popularity.

‘Through our distribution company we have got to know some very good family food businesses in Spain. These are small family businesses who are really passionate about what they do and we wanted to promote those artisan producers and to introduce their products to a wider market.’

He and his wife, Loretta, whom he met when she came to work for his family firm, Total Storage Ltd, launched Spanish Passion Foods just over a year ago with one product, spicy vegetable skewers. They now have more than 50 lines from fruit preserves, olive oil, soups and sauces to wines from the oldest family producers in the Rioja region.

This month they will open a shop at their base in Warrington to showcase their produce and in the coming months, Stephen says, they will be adding to their Mediterraenean menu. New lines are taste tested by Stephen and Loretta and their family and friends before they are made available to buy and Stephen added: ‘There are always new things to discover, new tastes to try and new flavour combinations to create. This is an exciting time, working with these producers to develop new sauces and flavours using their authentic Spanish ingredients.

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‘Í have always had a love for Spain and I like the fact that people grow and produce things in a very traditional manner to create the best flavours.

‘The market place we are giving them started very small and we are looking at growing it steadily. These are small artisan producers and we do not want and will not get to the stage where they are having to produce things on a colossal scale.’

Spanish Passion Foods are available by mail order through their website and also from delicatessens, garden centres and farm shops. Stephen said: ‘Supermarkets are starting to catch on to Spanish food – Marks and Spencer has launched a range of Spanish ready meals – but there is still a long way to go.

‘I think people still have a misconception of tapas, it’s not just a few Mediterranean things on a plate. In Spain it varies from region to region to region depending on the local produce and what’s in season.

‘I’d like to see people experimenting, adding a Spanish twist to their own local produce to create a Cheshire tapas, using Cheshire cheese for instance.’

To see the full range or to find out more, go to

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