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Manufacturer Up Close: Honeybuns

Honeybuns focuses primarily on being an artisan bakery making indulgent treats, made with luxurious ingredients with provenance, which happen to be gluten free.

The business has enjoyed a period of sustainable growth and now employs 30 people. Bidfood recently included Honeybuns as one of its best artisan brands in the Bidfood portfolio

In this manufacturer close up, we speak to founder and owner Emma Goss-Custard about the business’ journey from starting out as a way to make extra money as a student to supplying products internationally to countries including Japan and Switzerland.

How did the business start up?

I started Honeybuns back in 1998 when I was a student in Oxford. Trying to find a way to make some extra money, I started baking cakes and delivering them on an old post office bike to local businesses and cafes in and around the city.

The recipes were heavily influenced by Italian ingredients including polenta, groundnuts, and seeds, which give an amazing depth of flavour and texture but also happen to be naturally gluten free.

After two years at an industrial unit in Guildford, my husband Matt and I moved the business to an old dairy farm in Dorset. We converted the old milking parlour into a bakery, as well as the outbuildings into offices.

Our small team of bakers still make all the cakes and tray bakes by hand, and the company’s primary focus to produce the best tasting products possible is unwavering.

What does your customer base look like?

Honeybuns supplies many fantastic businesses up and down the UK, many of which we’ve worked with for years. These include John Lewis, Waitrose, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Waterstones, Warner Leisure Resorts and Shearings Hotels, plus many wonderful farm shops, cafes and boutique coffee shops, garden centres, universities and tourist attractions.

Further afield we supply our cakes to Switzerland and are about to supply to Japan.

Our gluten free individually wrapped cakes and tray bakes are ideal for foodservice and food to go.

We work with national and local wholesalers with a wide customer base, and so it gives us really good distribution to all sorts of trade stockists throughout the country. We’ve created bespoke tray bakes for two of these wholesalers, Brakes and Bidfood. We like to think we offer a very personal, gold plated service.

What are your most popular products?

In our Classic gluten free range, the Milk Chocolate Brownie is a year-on-year top seller, followed by the Cranberry & Pecan Flapjack and Chocolate Caramel Shortbread.

We launched an expanding vegan and gluten free range of cakes and tray bakes in 2016 which are proving very popular, too.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

We bake innovative and indulgent cakes that just happen to be free from. We’ll only bring a product to market if we think it has a point of difference. Many of our cakes are multi layered, meaning they are revisited many times during the baking process.

We also use the best naturally free from ingredients possible.

Unlike most conventional bakeries, we make everything by hand, and bake our cakes low and slow to allow the flavours to mingle and develop properly.

Our online shop continues to provide us with a direct link to the end consumer, which is invaluable for their feedback.

We take real enjoyment in producing a good product, building a sustainable business with values, and having a happy team who enjoy coming to work.

You have produced a cookbook – why? And what’s the feedback been like?

We’d published ‘Honeybuns gluten-free Baking’ with Pavilion in 2012, which was filled with more than 100 recipes for flapjacks, cakes, brownies, biscuits and puddings.

We were left with lots of savoury recipes and were getting requests for these from our customers, so it made sense to do a second book filled with sweet and savoury all day recipes, to take you from breakfast through to supper.

To have more control over the content and design of the book we decided to self-publish, and ‘Honeybuns All Day Cook Book’ was published at the end of 2018.

Feedback has been fabulous; it was even included in the Independent’s Indy Best Top 10 Gluten free cookbooks. Writing the book encouraged us to look at new ideas and apply them to our new product development.

You specialise in gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan-friendly cakes – how much easier does Erudus make your business operations?

Allergen listing is so important. Erudus certainly saves time for new line forms for each customer, meaning our customers can access the data in one place.

We can also share our food product specifications easily with our customers. All the allergen and technical data information is in a single place and easily accessible.