I thought you might enjoy a bit of a news round up from our gluten free bakery here in very rural Dorset. We remain a proudly independent business. Honeybuns is family owned and run by our local team of bakers, packers and office members. We’ve been based at Naish Farm in the small village of Holwell since 2002.
As well as baking our award winning gluten free and vegan tray bake cakes, we keep ourselves happily busy with projects ranging from hedge laying to the hosting of local school visits. Our philosophy has remained constant over the years, namely that baking delicious cakes is just part of what Honeybuns is about. We are equally passionate about:
– our natural environment
– using artisan methods
– nurturing links with local community groups
– supporting fellow small businesses
– indulging our love of all rescue animals
As a commercial enterprise we need to operate profitably in order to keep our team securely employed and to be able to invest time and money in these “beyond the bakery” interests. Covid, and specifically lockdowns, tested our resilience with wholesale bakery orders evaporating to almost zero during lock down. We’ve learnt, the hard way, about the need to diversify and future proof the business. By sharing our experiences, I hope we might spread a little positivity and encouragement to other rurally based businesses.
News from the busy bees in the Honeybuns product development kitchen
Baking delicious gluten free cakes remains at the heart of what we do. We are motivated to keep our customers happy and hopefully convert them into loyal Honeybuns fans. It is fair to say that the past couple of years have required a bit of a “tin hat” approach. Namely, popping a hard hat on, keeping our heads down and focusing on getting the business through to the other side. Happily, post Covid we are now re discovering our creative mojo, with the proof to be found on the kitchen table in the Honeybuns office. New cake ideas and recipes are brought in by Molly each week for all of us to sample. From a dozen or so contenders we have selected three lines to launch later this year.
For Christmas 2022 (I know! Please don’t shoot the messenger….) we will be launching a brand new version of our Mincemeat Crumble Slice with added orange zest and cranberries. This beauty will be available in tray bake and wrapped slice format on our online shop and the wrapped slice will be available in Waitrose Cafes. Customers told us they wanted more dairy free options and this classic is gluten and dairy free as well as being accredited by The Vegan Society.
Also online from the Autumn, you will be able to buy our brand new Cinnamon Slice. Inspired by Canadian coffee culture, our signature almond and polenta shortbread is layered with home made caramel, cinnamon sponge and a generous drizzle of Belgian white chocolate. As well as being gluten free this latest creation is also free from oats, thus giving more choice our oat sensitive customers.
Our much loved Persian flapjack tray bake will also be available as a wrapped slice from the Autumn. Available exclusively online, this pretty, subtly flavoured slice is dairy free and vegan as well as gluten free.
Latest updates from our onsite nature reserve
The fields around Naish Farm used to be grazed by dairy cows owned by the Vining family. We moved here in 2002 with our rescue ponies and donkey in tow. Our mini herd only has modest grazing requirements so we were able to let nature roam a bit more in the spare pasture. Today we maintain 5 acres as a mix of donkey grazing, orchard, tree plantation and native hedging. The hedges require a fair bit of maintenance to keep them thick and healthy. We’ve planted new hedges parallel to the original hedge lines to create sheltered walkways around the perimeter of the fields. They not only look lovely but they support a plethora of birds, mammals, insects and native hedgerow plants. We have them traditionally laid which involves cutting part way through the thicker stems and bending the hedge plants over to horizontal. This is less brutal than simply chopping a hedge with a mechanical blade and also helps create better habitats for wildlife.
Andy Carr of AJC Countryside Management has carried out extensive hedge laying for us over the Winter and Spring. After a career in aviation engineering was halted due to lockdowns, Andy decided to turn his passion for wildlife and conservation into a business. Honeybuns were one of Andy’s first customers and we are now looking forward to working together on lots more nature based projects this year. The mediaeval droveway running by the side of Naish Farm is being carefully restored by Andy. This involves the removal of deadwood and bramble and the planting of replacement young native hedging whips.
Local community links and bakery visits
We are delighted to be supporting the Big Yellow Bus Garden Project based just down the road from us in Shillingstone. Paul Williams started the garden space from scratch. What was waste land is now home to gorgeous saddleback pigs, a remembrance garden, a reflective pool, orchard and raised vegetable plots. This special garden is free for all to use and acts as a true community hub with regular events being held there. We donate cakes each month to BYBP which are then sold to raise funds which are then ploughed straight back into this non profit project.
Do look out for our brand new BYBP taster box which we will be launching online shortly. 15% of proceeds from each box sold will be given directly to Paul to reinvest in this inspirational project.
A recent highlight for us was a visit to the bakery from Yewstock school. We welcomed children and their teachers to look at how our cakes are made. We also enjoyed a chocolate and cake tasting together. The children were brilliantly behaved and loved meeting Bobo (who works on reception) and our resident donkeys, Tinker & Cino.
We’re also proud to be sponsoring a young local athlete Matt Vincent. He’s a duathelete based locally, who has qualified to represent the Great British Age-Group team at the World Championships this year. We’re supplying him with delicious cake to keep him fuelled during his training
Rural business diversification ideas
Most of our cakes are sold in volume to wholesalers who then distribute throughout the UK to their customers. Honeybuns cakes have been discovered as far afield as St Andrew’s golf course to a little post office near Land’s End. As aforementioned, during lockdown this wholesale part of our business petered out to almost nothing. Thanks to the furlough scheme we were able to retain all but one of our original team who have loyally stood by us and are we are now all back together and making up for lost time.
There appears to be a pent up demand for wrapped cakes which people can eat whilst out and about. For instance, our cakes are currently being enjoyed by visitors to the Chelsea Flower Show.
The penny has dropped that we need to look more seriously at our online offering lest we ever experience disruption to our wholesale business again. We’ve always had a basic online offering of cakes but we’ve now paid proper attention to the range. Our new website will be launching imminently with a much larger range of gluten free goodies, gifts and celebration cakes to choose from. We’ve also listened to customer feedback organised our online cake varieties into categories. With the new online shop you will be able to search for options such as:
Dairy free cakes
Oat free cakes
And so on
We’ve also been busy converting an old horse lorry into a beautiful boutique glamping abode. This will give us another revenue stream lest we ever have to shut the bakery down again. Trevor, a local master carpenter has been working on this project and it is truly a labour of love.
We also took the sad decision to close our pop up Bee Shack Café and shop. This building now brings us another rental income which, again, helps to mitigate the losses we incurred over the past couple of years.
Instead, we hold monthly pop up shops in the Honeybuns office on the first Saturday of each month. These pop up shop days (link) give us the opportunity to meet everyone and show them around. You can feed the donkeys some carrots, sprinkle some wild flower seeds and pick up one of our food safari cards…….
Shopping locally and supporting small independent businesses
The food safari cards we give out on pop up shop days help promote our fellow small business friends. Why not visit our pop up shop to stock up on cake bargains galore before heading off to:
– Dorset Blue Vinny. They’ve got a fresh milk vending machine plus their own handmade blue cheese for sale.
– Thyme After Thyme. Once you’ve stocked up on local goodies pootle over to Margot’s award winning café for a delicious gluten free lunch. She’s open til 2pm on Saturdays.
– The Big Yellow Bus Project. To walk of any calorific excess, you can park at the Sturminster end of the trailway, just by the factory shop. Then walk the trailway – it’s a couple of miles before you reach the BYBP garden. Drink in the view of Hambledon hill from the pond seat….
By buying from Honeybuns you are also helping to support a wonderful network of freelancers and small businesses. From our fridge engineers to our signwriter to our donkey vet – everyone is local and part of our business eco system.
We thank you for your support of us and our friends.
Comment and share what you thought of this blog! Be sure to share this with a friend too! Thanks for reading!
– Emma Goss Custard
If you have any questions, do get in touch via this blog in the comments section, or via facebook, email or telephone.
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