Interview with an Innovator: Georgina Irwin, Pasta Evangelists

Insights Lab sits down with Pasta Evangelists' Head of Commercial Development to discuss evolving omnichannel strategies amid the cost-of-living crisis, with the brand's new pastificio factory and the launch of 'Pasta Evangelists by Perbellini' in Harrods also on the agenda
Georgie Irwin, Head of Commercial Development at Pasta Evangelists
Come December, Georgina Irwin will be celebrating her three-year work anniversary at Pasta Evangelists. And, much like her employers, Georgie has been in a near-constant state of evolution, broadening her role over those three years as the premium pasta brand continues to rapidly expand across channels and categories.

"I suppose I'm the sort of person who puts their hand up when there's an opportunity to help the business, whether it's in my job description or not," Georgie, currently the Head of Commercial Development, told us.

"I'm always eager to learn and develop skills, which is something you can do anywhere, but even more so as part of a dynamic startup."

For a brand like Pasta Evangelists and its omnichannel focus, Georgie's versatility in the face of the new has undoubtably been a real asset. Not six months after having started as Head of Retail and eRetail in 2020, she was helping to launch the brand's first ever restaurant operation, in Harrods.

A year later, Georgie took on D2C and online takeaway as part of her cross-channel management role, with the brand continuing to expand its operations across the country.

Today, Pasta Evangelists is firmly established as one of the UK's leading authorities on artisan fresh pasta, with a spate of new openings taking its total of delivery locations nationwide past 40, and a brand-new fresh pasta factory (their 'Pastificio'), that's said to be the UK's largest, launching later this month.

In our exclusive interview, Georgie takes us through some of the key points from the brand's omnichannel strategies, comments on Pasta Evangelists' partnership with two-star chef Giancarlo Perbellini in the imminently-relaunching Harrods' dining hall, and discusses why value is now key amid the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
Sign up for our
FREE food trends & insights newsletter!
Regular food trend intelligence from the experts, straight to your inbox
A Golden Opportunity
Pasta Evangelists offers weekly specials as part of its Recipe Kits online hub, offered alongside customer favourites such as the 'Carbonara of Dreams' with Fresh Bucatini & Crispy Pancetta, and the Reginette with Beef Shin Ragù
First off, Georgie, can you tell us a bit about how Pasta Evangelists has grown and consolidated some of its omnichannel strategies since you started during the days of COVID?

Georgie: "The omnichannel positioning has been a real strength to the brand, not just during COVID, but over the last five years, as the UK has so fundamentally changed.

"We've always been a 'restaurant at home' brand, and while recipe kits exploded during lockdown, providing Pasta Evangelists with a golden opportunity to reach a broad audience seeking to create special moments at home; we also broke into the takeaway market to give customers a choice: you can cook with us at home, or we can cook for you.

"With that, I think, we found our best product market fit. And while consumer behaviour has obviously changed since those COVID/lockdown days, people still want to create special at-home eating occasions. Now, it's often as a way of saving a bit of money during the cost-of-living-crisis, while still enjoying restaurant-quality food.

"A big draw for our recipe kits and delivery offering during COVID was a sense of discovery and adventure, as we focused on storytelling and how pasta dishes brilliantly vary depending on region. People were hungry to learn, and with holidays cancelled, it was our way of transporting customers around Italy through food.

"Now, with our Pasta Academy, we're taking the storytelling elements from our recipe kits and teaching (or evangelising) our customers in real life. It's a part of the business that's really thrived post-COVID."
Classic Pasta Evangelists dishes will sit alongside exclusive specials from Chef Giancarlo Perbellini at the newly launched Harrods outpost, with options including ravioli with braised venison, and a mixed seafood lasagne (@harrodsdininghall)
Pasta Evangelists' first restaurant opportunity came pretty soon after you joined - and in Harrods! What do you remember from that time, and what can you tell us about the soon-launching 'Pasta Evangelists by Perbellini'?

"Launching in Harrods was a bit of a whirlwind! It was during lockdown that we put it to them that we'd like to run their pasta bar upon reopening, and we managed to make it happen in just eight weeks!

"It was also a steep learning curve for me, from an operational standpoint, but we had a wonderful new head of food, Michele Rodelli, to curate the menu and train the team. It was the start of an amazing adventure working with one of the biggest brands in the UK, delivering against a shared passion for quality food.

"And while we have always endeavoured to provide our customers with an elevated eating experience of exceptional quality across all our channels; our partnership with chef Giancarlo Perbellini represents a ‘doubling down’ on quality at Pasta Evangelists, and builds on the gastronomic profile we have been developing since launching the Pasta Bar back in 2021.

"With 2 Michelin stars, Perbillini stretches and elevates our brand in Harrods (and also overall). We want to be the best in our field, and in our food operations, and this partnership is part of that journey."
Download our free white paper
Discover our UK Hospitality Food & Drink Trends To Watch 2023/24
Investing in Value and Quality
In a recent Instagram competition, Pasta Evangelists paired with sofa company Snug to offer a year of free pasta for two, along with a premium sofa
With many consumers looking to save money due to the current financial climate, how is Pasta Evangelists adapting its strategies to meet evolving needs?

"For us, it's about finding ways of delivering value to our customers in a way that is still premium and true to our brand.

"With the CPI where it is, costs have increased for us as a business hugely. But value is what's really become important to the customer. They're having to make difficult decisions about where to spend their money.

"So, internally, we're looking closely at operational efficiencies and how to make improvements. And, on the customer side, for example, we've lowered the entry price point to the brand within takeaway.

"Value is just as important when raising prices - giving customers a reason for the extra few pounds. For us, that might be upgrading the pecorino in the carbonara, or the addition of fresh green beans in the basil pesto lasagne.

"Investing in quality is a way of really delighting customers and making them feel justified that they've chosen to treat themselves. Effectively, you're looking at your own budget as well as the customers, and always delivering a truly brilliant experience."
Pasta Evangelists currently offers four types of lasagne on its takeaway menu
Last (but not least): Pasta Evangelists' 'Pastificio'. It's said to be the UK's biggest pasta factory - what can you tell us about it?

"Our ‘Pastificio’ opens this month, and it's perhaps the most exciting step in our food journey.

"The site has been designed with quality and innovation at the forefront, so we can start experimenting with even more exciting, differentiated flavours and gourmet ingredients to delight and inspire our customers.

"We've invested in the latest pasta and cooking technology from Italy, and we'll be able to enhance the quality of our recipes and create a real step-change in our mission to redefine and elevate pasta in the UK.

"It's a very exciting time for Pasta Evangelists, both from a culinary and brand perspective."

Meet our trend specialists and discover our unique 'Chef Nexus' & research methodology

Read our free deep-dives and sign up for our regular food trends newsletter

One F&B topic, one-page PDF format. Short, sharp food intelligence