After a career in creating communities that celebrate individuality and generating launchpads for entrepreneuers – think Depop, Retrosuperfuture and PIG magazine – it’s no surprise that Simon Beckerman’s next move takes him down the path of a sustainability and community-led platform for the food and drink world.
His new app DELLI, created with Natalie Lee-Joe, formely of Hackney’s Jidori, Depop alumni Nebil Kriedi, and Ashish Saggar heading up finance, dives deeper than justing talking about ingredients and selling products. Born out of shifting attitudes towards local food, DELLI applies the “drop” model from fashion – if you’ve ever seen a queue of Gen Z waiting outside their favourite clothing brand store to get their hands on the newest item, you’ll know exactly what I mean – to local producers near you.
Log onto the app and you’ll see exclusive produce in your area available to order from food makers featured on the app for a limited time. Trending producers include: My Neighbour The Dumplings, Kold Sauce, 40ft Brewery, Mama Chen, Tacos Padre, Lil W Bakes, Papi’s Pickles, Nourished Communities, Kefir Magic, Rapscallion Soda, plus more.
We caught up with Simon and Natalie for a chat about their new venture.
From Depop to Retrosuperfuture to PIG magazine and now DELLI – what prompted you to make the move into food and drink?
Simon: My passion lies within building communities, and that’s what I’ve done since the beginning of my career, from PIG magazine to Depop. What also ties all of what I’ve done together is my passion for discovering new talent, the up-and-coming, those who challenge the status quo and who decide to make a living out of bringing forward change in their own fields. With our magazine, we discovered and talked about the most inspiring, avant-garde creatives in fashion and music. With Depop, we gave them a space to become independent and build their little empires from their pockets.
When I exited Depop, I started observing what was happening in the world around me, and I saw that a big change was happening. Food is broken. Processes and sourcing are opaque and quality, health and sustainability are continuously sacrificed for higher profit margins. And I also noticed that a new generation of independent food and drink makers were popping up all over the place. Creative people in their own rights, making products from their kitchens and selling them via their Instagrams, Whatsapp and other social media. Very inspiring and unique products and brands, from sauces to fresh baked breads, to wine, all local, independent, good quality and driven by a passion to do something new and help others move away from big food.
I thought that this was incredible and that I had to do something to help bring these people together and give them a space where they can be discovered by like-minded buyers. So here comes DELLI, and our mission is quite simple: to build a platform that brings together these like-minded buyers with these independent sellers, and where everyone with a kitchen can be a maker. For good food to be shared at every table.
What’s something you’re guilty of ordering again and again (on DELLI or elsewhere)?
Nat: I’ve become a convert to coconut kefir. For years I have had some gut health issues but never did anything about it. I have now become completely dependent on my morning shot of coconut kefir, from a maker super local to me in Bethnal Green called Kefir Magic. I literally walk around the corner to pick it up on a Sunday.
Simon: Natural wine! When the weekend comes, and also sometimes during the week, I love to try new natural wines. The process of making wines in a natural way brings forward all the taste that in traditional winemaking, for example using barrels and sulphites, is killed. They are so fresh and delicious, and each one is different from one another, and you don’t need to be a sommelier to taste the difference. Another thing I like about all this new wave of natural wines is their branding, which goes against the common rules. It’s a bit like a F you to the system, and the most inspiring thing is that this community as a whole is consistent with one another in the way they communicate, in the aesthetics of their brands, whilst at the same time so different. It’s as if one day they decided to ask an agency to rebrand wine in a way that makes them all different but at the same time convey the same message. It’s incredibly powerful.
Several food delivery services have launched over the last couple of years, mostly thanks to the pandemic. What makes DELLI stand out?
Nat: I don’t really see us as a food delivery service. I see DELLI as a community first and foremost. We want to find all those small independent businesses doing incredibly unique and creative things that don’t necessarily have a place to come together, so that they can share and be discovered by people like you and me. At DELLI we’re more interested in their stories and processes over how you receive their food and drink, ie a delivery service. That’s not to say we don’t care about how they package things and get them to you, but we are much more concerned with establishing connections between people rather than products.
Simon: Something that hasn’t been seen in the food tech space is the “drops” model. Much like Depop, we’ve decided to employ the drop model at DELLI, which sees exclusive produce from the food makers featured on the app for a limited period: either until the produce sells out or depending on how much they can make in the first place that is sustainable to their business. This was definitely inspired by what was going on in London where we saw chefs and restaurants support their suppliers by shifting particular produce, or offering weekend special dishes, whether that was pies, lasagnes, burgers, or cocktails. This kind of “get it while it’s hot” mentality really adds another layer of excitement and adventure to the community that I don’t think you can find anywhere else.
How do you think our relationship to food has changed or is changing?
Simon: There has been a gradual shift in behaviour within the world of food, something that was for sure accelerated throughout the last two years while we were all stuck at home and our worlds became more local than ever. Much like Instagram changed our relationship to social interaction, Depop to fashion, our relationship to food has also changed. Especially amongst the Gen Zs who are beginning to replace fashion with food as a form of creative self-expression, an indicator of social status, and at a very base level, a way in which to identify oneself. DELLI wants to inspire the next generation to express themselves with food and be seen at the forefront of all these side hustles and support young people finding new ways to experiment with food and show off their creativity.
Nat: Our relationship with food has been changing slowly over the years but really accelerated over the past couple – hopefully to permanent changes. I believe we are much more conscious (and uncompromising) of where our food comes from, wanting to receive it with the least harm on the environment as possible and having visibility as to who and where your money goes. I’ve loved seeing this real sense of supporting your local community and the trust we have for the people within our local areas over faceless corporations and the relationships we have developed. We want greater transparency and responsibility overall, and the wonderful thing is, it’s the younger generations where this has become non-negotiable. They are teaching us to take more care and be more responsible.
What has been the most exciting part of developing DELLI?
Nat: For me, it’s 100 per cent been about discovering, fostering and meeting our community. We have some truly exceptional individuals and businesses on DELLI. We started by reaching out to the businesses we all supported during the pandemic and through that, have now uncovered many more inspiring makers – people doing incredible things from their home kitchens which I didn’t know was possible before. And it obviously helps that their food tastes fantastic – you can really taste the care and quality.
Simon: Getting to finally work with Nat has been great. We’ve known each other for years from my regular visits to Jidori, and we’ve had so many conversations about the food and drink scene in London, so to finally have something tangible in which we can continue to explore those conversations has been really rewarding for me. Then I guess, it’s the feedback from our community of makers who are so enthusiastic and supportive to have something like DELLI be a part of their food journey.
How do you see the future of the foodie side hustle evolving?
Simon: One thing that I find fascinating about the internet is how, since its inception, it has consistently found new ways to bring people together. First as an experiment, then with the computer and now with smartphones. DELLI wants to allow anyone with a kitchen and a passion for food to use it to become financially independent, and if we do a good job at this, our app will allow them to be discovered, and will allow buyers to discover the makers in a simple way. All across the industry the barrier will constantly be lowered to facilitate this kind of dynamic. And mobile phones and apps are allowing us to recreate the feeling of a market, straight from our pockets.
What’s one local restaurant or small producer you think every Londoner should know about?
Nat: I’m a little biased as my best mate owns Elliot’s. But it is one of my favourite places in East London for a few small plates and a couple of glasses of natural wine. I’ve also been a fan of Sonora Tortilleria since they opened (getting their tortillas and salsa macha delivered during lockdown). And I’m super excited by new players such as Two Hot Asians, Onggi and Araw.
How is DELLI overcoming the obstacles small producers typically face?
Nat: At DELLI, we truly are trying to assist our makers as much as possible with any issues they face – whether that be us trialling logistics and delivery with our makers, helping to find the right packaging or introducing them to other makers within the community. I ran a small restaurant in East London – Jidori – so I’m well aware of all the pain points these guys face. Having to source and test packaging can be such a long process which is often near impossible to do if you’re independent and small – you simply don’t have the time. Also, we’ve started to coordinate our DELLI HQ as a collection point for those makers who are working out of their homes, giving them the option to invite people to collect the products somewhere which is not their home address. Essentially, we just want to help champion the small guys in whatever way we can, so we’re evolving and learning with them every day.
How are you ensuring that the community is diverse and accessible?
Nat: We are still meeting each maker on DELLI face to face or via a video call and we spend a lot of our time hearing their stories and getting to know them. They all have fascinating and diverse stories. We’re not looking for any products in particular, but rather more invested in their stories and passion. I think by being guided this way, we are building a truly diverse and accessible community.
Simon: By putting people first and connecting with them on a human level, we’re taking full advantage of what London has to offer. Again, back to my point about food being a form of creative and/or self-expression, our attention is drawn to those people that are really putting themselves at the heart of what they do, who have a strong voice, are curious, and enjoy challenging the norms. So, by proxy, these are the kinds of people who create amazing produce because they think outside of the box and thus create something diverse. It’s our job to make that accessible to you.
Other than Depop and DELLI, what’s an app you can’t live without?
Nat: Citymapper! Ha – I have the worst sense of direction. But otherwise, Resy – for finding great last-minute reservations, Health – to ensure I’m moving, NY Times for games and puzzles.