The LGBTQIA+ small businesses you should get to know
While many big brands highlight Pride each June, this selection shines a light on the best small queer-owned brands, and those supporting the LGBTQIA+ community.
It’s June, which means there’s usually an abundance of slightly overcooked barbecued meats on the menu, freckles appearing on bare shoulders and heightened pollen intolerances. It’s also Pride Month, a colourful celebration of LGBTQUIA+ identities, that brings raised awareness of the issues facing the community.
While Pride is technically a month-long event, here at BBC Good Food we are reflecting on how food and drink act as vehicles for fostering connection and joy all year round.
And while Pride 'month' – starting from June and spanning to August – sparks a colourful celebration of LGBTQUIA+ identities and awareness of issues facing the community; one event stands as an indelible turning point. That is, the fateful police raid at New York City's iconic Stonewall Inn in 1969 where the queer community took to the streets to finally fight back against their harassment by the New York Public Morals Division.
Now fast-forward more than five decades, it's more important than ever to celebrate a movement that has transformed society and has rewritten the narrative of LGBTQUIA+ rights. And what better place to start than the topics we know best, food and drink. Here we shine a light on the best queer-owned small business and those supporting the LGBTQIA+ community.
Forget prosecco, cava, pét nat and even champagne: there’s a new French fizz in town, and it’s here to stay. Launched in December 2022, Drink Clii is on an endeavour to introduce a new generation of sparkling wine drinkers to the delicate wonders of crémant.
Founded by Dasha Korznikova and run by her 80 per cent queer workforce, Clii crémant is made using the méthode traditionnelle in the Alsace region of France. In Clii’s case, pinot blanc grapes undergo a labour-intensive process similar to that used to make champagne, including a secondary bottle fermentation and ageing on slats for a minimum of 15 months to develop its body and complexity. The end result is instantly refreshing, with fine bubbles that fill the mouth and offer subtle notes of peach and floral aromas.
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You can find Clii at its first London stockist, Greek Street’s Martinez cocktail lounge, which is aptly host to Soho’s newest queer club night, Hotel @ 49A, in collaboration with Drink Clii. Hotel @ 49A lifts the curtain into a safe space for a queer crowd that extends beyond the writhing Studio 54-style space. You can also order Clii on its website.
The Gay Farmer
For all olive oil aficionados, this eponymous brand needs no introduction. As an multi-award-winning organic extra virgin olive oil producer, The Gay Farmer came to life in 2008 following the owner's first olive harvest on his mother’s small 50-tree holding in Moratalla, north-west Murcia, Spain.
The Gay Farmer has since started importing oil to the UK and expanded to one of the finest and oldest olive mills in Spain. The 1,500-acre organic estate has been home to a family for six generations who produce the finest Arbequina and Picual olive oils available, made using biodynamic sustainable farming methods and ethical, traceable produce.
With tasting notes by Guild of Food Writers member (and olive oil expert) Judy Ridgway, the Early Harvest 2022 is described as "a magnificent oil, an excellent choice for enhancing sauces, pasta dishes and soups, as well as mixing and matching with other well-flavoured ingredients such as barbecued grills and strong leafy salads, and for dipping with vegetable crudités".
PROUD beer has poured its heart into its 'LGBTQIPA' (clever acronym, right?) as it has embarked on a revolution to find a sustainable solution to funding charities that support the queer community, while enjoying an ice-cold beer.
Frustrated with corporations slapping a rainbow on their brand logos once a year, founders Ethan Spibey and Sören Scharf took matters into their own hands to create a beer company that also serves as a platform to relate back to the charities that help the queer community all year round.
With each bottle of PROUD purchased, a 20p direct donation is made to its LGBTQIA+ charity partners. Selling 100 bottles of PROUD funds 10 self-test HIV kits, or five days' worth of materials to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools.
Spibey told Attitude magazine that: “It’s not a queer product – it’s a product to support the queer community. It’s a statement. It’s a message.”
Hard seltzers have been having a moment in recent years, appearing at festivals, in pubs and on supermarket shelves. However, for those who seek a seltzer with a philanthropic endeavour, LuvJus is the one for you.
Dubbed as a "craft-pop", LuvJus is an all-natural alcoholic beverage made using natural fruit juices, botanicals, sparkling water and spirits, and it's available in three refreshing flavours. It's won numerous awards and accolades, including the Great Taste Award 2021, five-star ratings in The Times and ‘The Trendy Tinny’ from The Sunday Times. It was even named best tropical cocktail in Good Food’s best canned cocktail review.
Inclusivity is at the core of LuvJus. Inspired by the global Pride movement, five per cent of all profits are donated to LGBTQIA+ charities. For Pride 2023, LuvJus has exciting collaborations in the pipeline, including one with Urban Outfitters, and it will be available at a number of Pride celebrations across the UK.
The Queer Brewing Project
Founded in 2019 by Lily Waite, The Queer Brewing Project is a truly empowering brewery for its commitments to fostering visibility and representation for LGBTQIA+ people in the industry.
As she told Melissa Thompson in the September 2021 issue of BBC Good Food: "Queer Brewing was conceived after my love and passion for the drink led me to working full-time in the beer industry. I never intended to get into brewing, and to be honest, I don’t consider myself a brewer. Running a brewery happened almost through happenstance. I wanted to use collaborations with brewers as a vehicle for activism, fundraising and increasing visibility and representation of LGBTQ+ people.
"What keeps me going are the responses from people who see themselves in what we do, feel recognised and represented, or have found the confidence to come out or be more open about their identity as a result of our work.
"Pride and LGBTQ+ representation absolutely has a place in food and drink, and all other areas of culture. How can it not? LGBTQ+ people have been involved in the production of food and drink forever, so why shouldn’t our causes have a place? Representation and visibility are important – and to a queer person unsure of their place in the world, or feeling alone, seeing something that references them could be really meaningful."
The latest release from The Queer Brewing Project sees the Pride Pils, a pilsner lager donating 10 per cent of profits to a London-based LGBTQ+ charity. Buy your cans for a Pride party on its website.
Just as bodacious as the name sounds, Saucybitch is London’s answer to American-style hot sauce. Owners Dean Smith and Steve Cook noticed after travelling to New York and Los Angeles that the UK’s hot sauce offerings didn’t pack the same punch as the artisanal sauces found in the US. So, they made their own.
Saucybitch established The Walthamstow Chilli Collective, meaning local community chilli growers in north-east London can donate their produce to be fermented to make the range of vegan hot sauces.
Each of the five flavours are extremely versatile. The blend of vinegar, red pepper, garlic and chilli immediately upgrades stir-fries, pizzas, grilled meats and eggs. We also love the iconic label, emblazoned with the owners' dog turned hot sauce mascot.
Keep an eye out for the limited-edition Pride bottle, too, which is released every year so that hot sauce lovers can support an authentic LGBTQIA+-owned, small-run brand.
Established in 2020, Supergay Spirits was born from the belief that craft liquor should have more fun – and with a name like this, it’s hard not to enjoy the contemporary delights of Supergay’s flamboyance, as well as its taste.
Its tagline of "from farm to disco" is suitably apt, as Supergay obsesses over every detail of its hand-crafted spirit. Produced in small batches and made from organic local corn, Supergay vodka is refined through the use of activated coconut charcoal for a superbly smooth taste with a hint of subtle butterscotch sweetness to finish. It’s great in cocktails, but equally good by itself on the rocks.
Better still, Supergay donates a percentage of profits from every bottle sold to organisations that benefit the LGBTQIA+ community.
Exalt was founded by business partners and married male couple Charlie Wilson-Vaughan and Dan Wilson-Vaughan, in a pursuit to provide high-protein smoothies and cold-pressed juices with natural added botanicals to suit a range different nutritional needs and fitness goals. Curated by its team of expert dictations and nutritionists, Exalt provides an answer to a post- or pre-workout drink that’s full of nutritious ingredients that you can throw in your gym bag on the go. Or, to simply make you feel like you really are a yoga mom from the inside out, whether you have your yoga mat to hand or not.
Brazenly named, each drink gives a nod to its high nutrition benefit, such as the Chilled AF cold-pressed tropical juice, boasting a hefty 300mg dose of passion flower, or the Morning Glory breakfast smoothie spiked with a a double-shot of Guatemalan coffee.
But what does 'queer' mean?
Queer describes sexual and gender identities other than straight and cisgender. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people may all identify with the word queer. Queer is also used to express that sexuality and gender can be complicated, can change over time, and might not fit exactly into either/or identities, such as male or female, gay or straight.
Want to know more?
BBC Three's Queer Britain is a warm and empathetic documentary presented by YouTuber and journalist Riyadh Khalaf, over six episodes Queer Britain gets under the skin of queer culture and shines a light on the challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community. In episode six in a bid to understand what queer is and why it is becoming an umbrella term, Khalaf meets the people who use the label. You can watch all episodes available to stream now on BBC iPlayer.
Meanwhile, BBC 6 Music are celebrating LGBTQUIA+ voices throughout June with the return of its annual Loud and Proud season of special shows, featuring guest mix's from gay icons including The XX's Oliver Sim, iconic English drag queen Bimini and pop-provocateur singer Peaches. Head over to BBC Sounds to listen to all four shows.
We want to hear from you!
What queer-run brands and small businesses do you love to stock up in your cupboards or use in your kitchen? Leave your recommendations in the comments.