We thought it might be helpful to provide an insight into how we approach ingredient sourcing.
In just the 15 years since Honeybuns started there has been a plethora of food trends and controversies to navigate through.
In our inaugural year, 1998, the big question for Honeybuns was whether to embrace organic or not. Better animal welfare was a big draw for us as well as less use of pesticides, processing agents and chemicals generally.
Rather than go entirely organic we use organic ingredients if it means we can avoid an additive. For instance, organic icing sugar doesn’t contain an anti-caking agent such as Tricalcium Phosphate (E341) and organic maple syrup is guaranteed free from contamination by formaldehyde, sometimes used during production of the syrup.
Based here in Dorset we are spoilt by the number of local food producers on our doorstep. Our free range eggs are not organic but the hens can be seen out and about at the farm just 2 miles from our bakery.
The premium ingredients we are so fond of using include ground almonds, ground hazelnut, polenta, sorghum flour and ground golden flaxseed. We use all five as replacements for wheat flour primarily because of their flavour, moisture levels and textures as well as fantastic nutritional profiles.
The down side is that they are more expensive than wheat flour by a factor of up to 30. Hence we have to be really careful about keeping a lid on other costs.
We use a mixture of Belgian and British chocolates depending on the recipe. We regularly conduct blind tastings against other chocolate suppliers to check we can’t do better.
The citrus zest and the cold pressed citrus oils we use are punishingly expensive but so worth it. The lemon oil smells beautiful – it could rival l’Occitane!
When we started out in the nineties everyone was still firmly in the land of food laden with preservatives, artificial colourings, enhanced shelf lives and battery farmed eggs, none of which we wanted to use. We were asking our trade buyers to have a leap of faith to buy our new fangled, fancy cakes with the higher cost price and the inconveniently short shelf lives.
When we decided to convert to gluten free we were adding a whole new layer of complexity to our sourcing of ingredients.
Sourcing certified gluten free ingredients has proved challenging. We may discover an amazing naturally “free from” ingredient only to find the supplier is not able to provide the essential paperwork. A paper trail of assurances including certified gluten tests is critical for us.
The flax and polenta we buy are both prepared in stand-alone gluten-free mills and took us a long time to source. Similarly, our gluten free oats are processed in isolation from any gluten-containing ingredients.
The availability of gluten free ingredients in the UK is improving all the time but we still have to look to the States, Canada and Europe for things like polenta, sorghum and ragi or red millet.
Gluten free oats were particularly tricky to source. There was (and it still prevails) confusion about whether oats are safe for coeliacs. Quoting from the Coeliac UK website:
“Oats contain avenin, which is a protein similar to gluten. However, research has shown that most people with coeliac can safely eat avenin.
Problems can occur if oats are produced in the same place as wheat, barley and rye, as the oats can become contaminated with these other grains. Only oats which are uncontaminated can be eaten by people with coeliac disease.
There are a very small number of people with coeliac disease who may still be sensitive to gluten-free, uncontaminated oat products.
It’s up to you to decide whether to include gluten-free oats in your diet. Some people prefer not to try them. However, they:
- can add variety to the gluten-free diet
- are a good source of soluble fibre, which helps to keep a healthy gut, can help to treat high cholesterol and can help to keep blood sugars stable."
It took us a long time to identify a supplier of assured gluten free oats. In case of poor harvests or any other reason for interrupted supply we always seek a secondary back up supplier. Once we had two assured suppliers we then started using gluten free oats. The flavour is fantastic but subtle differences in the milling process of the new oats mean that the texture is slightly different.
We work with a well respected chocolate producer, Barry Callabaut. They supply many of the top hotels and chocolatiers in the country. We love the consistency and quality of their chocolate and they’re one of the few chocolate suppliers who can give full assurances on being gluten free. As important is their position on ethical sourcing - please see Barry Callabaut.
Similarly, we seek out other suppliers who operate in responsible and sustainable ways. Animal welfare is extremely important to us and we work with Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and we were awarded a Good Egg Award in 2013.
We’re primarily focused on seeking out the best quality ingredients we can. If there is a great tasting ingredient that meets our criteria (gluten free, “clean” etc) and we can opt for geographically closer supplier we’ll do it.
Our eggs are extremely local but they also have to be excellent, verified free range and with all the food safety assurances.
I hope this has given you an idea of the multi-factorial nature of sourcing. Any questions on this or suggestions, we’d be happy to hear from you.
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