Sweet Nothings - sugar-free flapjacks made in Cheshire
PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 June 2017
There are no nasties in these delicious sugar-free flapjacks made in Bunbury, as Emma Mayoh discovered.
For many, the Great British Bake Off phenomenon has been the golden touch for their fledgling baking business. But for Stuart Andrew it had a different impact. The explosion in the number of amateur bakers launching their own businesses, following the success of the heralded television programme, signalled the end of his old bakery business, Connoisseur Cake Company, in Whitchurch. He had run it for years with his wife, Lindy, and a team of master bakers who turned out high quality bakes.
‘Now, there are bakeries and cake companies doing all sorts of wonderful things but back then, we were definitely one of only a few,’ said Stuart, who lives in Bunbury, near Tarporley.
‘People loved them. Good quality sponge cakes were really difficult to get hold of back then. But Lindy is fantastic at them, they really were fabulous cakes. But as baking became more popular, more people left behind jobs and went into this field. What we did wasn’t different anymore. We found it difficult to find our niche and find other products.’
But the 59-year-old has not let it deter him. Since then he has been focussed on building a new food business that will help people eat healthier snacks and also provide stability and a future for his family.
And it has gone from one end of the spectrum to the other. Stuart has now started producing sugar-free flapjacks. It was after speaking to his former financial adviser, who had an allergy to sugar, that he first struck upon the idea of making sugar-free food. As he researched it – during a time when eating a sugar-free diet was not as fashionable as it is now – he discovered the huge benefits of cutting out the white stuff. He has overcome huge hurdles in perfecting the right ingredients and recipes while keeping great flavour. He has uncovered safely guarded methods to make the flapjacks look and taste like a flapjack without the sugar.
‘It has been a long, fascinating and hard journey that has taken a lot of work just to get to where we are now,’ said Stuart.
‘There have been times where I’ve felt like I should stop doing it because it’s not been easy. I think a lot of my friends think I’m crazy because I’ve stuck with it all this time. But I really want to do this for my family. Trying to get the right ingredients and the right recipe was a tricky process but we’re definitely getting there now. I want to improve all of the time.’
Stuart, who also drives an HGV part time to fund the business, has one main drive to become a success – his family. Being able to provide a comfortable life for Lindy as well as a future career for sons Angus and Alex motivates him to make Sweet Nothings a success.
And the hard work is paying off. Sweet Nothings flapjacks, which come in apple and vine fruit, lime and coconut, fruit and nut and ginger and lemon flavours, are sold at stockists around the country and have become a favourite with vegans. The lime and coconut variety was awarded a Best in Free-from award class from Food Management Today.
Stuart is now focussing on distributing the flapjacks in the region as well as aiming to attract more mainstream customers. He is working with company shareholder Pete Smith, a Kelloggs brand manager who launched the Nutri-grain snack-bar range in the UK.
‘There has been product development for over three years,’ said Stuart. ‘Now I feel like we’re ready to build on this and introduce flapjacks to more customers. I would love to have a regional hotspot where lots of local businesses supply my flapjacks.
‘Ideally, I would love to supply supermarkets like Waitrose. I’ve managed to develop these really tasty products on what is a shoestring budget. I’m determined to make it work. I want to make it work for my family.’