Coventry’s hugely impressive Little Vegan Bakery has long been on the list of businesses Food Covolution wanted to share with readers. We finally caught up with owner Carly…
Food Covolution: Hi Carly! How did you get into vegan baking?
Carly: My first inspiration was my nan. I used to love her fruit cake! Later I was working as a chef, and because I’m a massive chocoholic, I started making things like chocolate cakes. After I went vegan, I began to struggle with working with animal products, so I moved to a more managerial role; but because by that point I’d adapted a lot of the recipes to make them vegan, I carried on making the cakes. It was a supportive environment so I made it my mission to veganise all the cake recipes!
FC: How difficult was the recipe adaptation?
C: There was a lot of trial and error. It’s taken me ages to get to the recipes I use now. It was…I don’t want to say hard, but I did make a lot of flat cakes in the early days! My cakes have definitely grown as the years have gone on!
FC: So what made you decide to start your own business?
C: I wanted to step away from dealing with animal products, so I took a break from my full time job for a couple of months to decide what I wanted to do. My mother-in-law suggested a business based on meals-to-go and such, but I just have this sweet tooth and I always gravitate towards sweet things. I think it started with word-of-mouth really. I knew a few vegan people, they knew I could make vegan cakes, and it went from there.
FC: You make vegan Creme Eggs and chocolate bars as well as cakes?
C: As I said, I’m a chocoholic! Even as recently as a few years ago, it was still quite hard to get decent vegan chocolate and I was craving Creme Eggs and Kit-Kats so bad! It took a lot of experimentation to find the right techniques and combinations of ingredients. I shared some pictures on Instagram and people were like “OMG, can I buy these?!”.
FC: So what is your range now?
C: I do original Creme Eggs, Caramel Eggs and Peanut Butter Eggs (which are exclusive to Green Unicorn Vegan Store at Fargo Village); YOLOS in original, caramel and peanut butter; Chock-a’breaks in original and orange; and for Christmas, My Chocolate Orange bars. I’m currently experimenting with a Twix-style bar, but that’s ongoing because there have been a few issues.
FC: You said Nikki at Green Unicorn is very supportive?
C: I have to thank her a lot. Everything I’ve ever started making, she’s had it first, and has shared it on social media. Vegan shops are really good because they all support one another and alert each other to new products. Nikki put me in touch with a shop in Swansea and from there, it just exploded. That Easter, my Creme Eggs were rated in the top five Easter Eggs – not just dairy-free, but ALL Easter Eggs.
FC: You’ve only been doing this for two years full-time, but I’ve been really impressed by how many businesses are now stocking your products.
C: Again, a lot of it is social media. I stared working with Damascena Coffee House in because there’s a lady in Birmingham who always has birthday cakes from me and someone from Damascena posted in the local vegan group, asking if anyone could recommend a vegan cake-maker. I now supply twenty-two cakes every two weeks to their three outlets in Birmingham, and I’m so proud to see my cakes in their shops because they’re so beautiful. I supply chocolates to stores in Norwich, Dorset, Cardiff and Llanelli, all through contacts made through social media.
FC: Are you seeing increased demand for vegan products?
C: Definitely! This year has been non-stop! Last year, my Christmas list sold out in twelve days. This year, it sold out in twenty-four hours! I was flabbergasted! I think Veganuary (Vegan January) is increasingly having an impact as well.
FC: Are you working to reduce plastic use?
C: With the chocolates, all the paper used in the wrappers is recycled already, and I recycle and re-use as much as possible. Instead of polystyrene packing chips, I use little rice crackers. You chuck them under water and they just dissolve! But by following a vegan diet, you’re already making a massive positive impact on the environment!