The vegan craft bakery will be the first of its kind in the country and will open in the north-east by Christmas.
When Steve Buchan set up his vegan baking company a year ago, he never would have envisioned a global pandemic would further his dream of owning his own bakery.
And that is exactly what the coronavirus pandemic has done with sales for Steve’s Vegan Bay Baker goods in hot demand.
Opening Scotland’s first craft vegan bakery, Steve has spent the past five to six months servicing his customers in new ways, bringing his baked goods including yum yums, bread and more, straight to their doorsteps.
Launching his business at his home in Cruden Bay in July 2019, he has now secured new premises in Newburgh which will see him open a factory with a 30ft trailer outside which will house a shop and cafe area, ahead of the festive season.
He said: “With the coronavirus pandemic, the business has just grown arms and legs. On a weekly basis I’m getting 40-50 bags of flour delivered to our house, so you can imagine my wife Zoe’s face when my delivery arrives.
“I started the business with the intention of growing it big. I’ve always wanted my own bakery as I used to work at the Ythan bakery in Ellon and I just loved being a baker. Before Covid-19 it would have been years before I was in this situation to open my own place, but, with the amount of home deliveries we’ve picked up it has been incredible. We’ve been really lucky in making the most of a bad situation.
“Prior to Covid-19 I had 12 wholesale clients and when it kicked in, it went down to two. We then offered to do home deliveries and we were getting 20-25 deliveries a day Monday to Saturday. It was a massive uptake. I went from working part-time to working more than full-time.”
Based at Joiners Yard on Insch Road, the premises overlooks the local nature reserve and will provide Steve with the space and facilities he needs to scale up his business in ways he could never have dreamed of doing at home.
Specialising in vegan breads, cakes, pastries, biscuits, scones, savoury pies and more, he will now be able to accommodate larger orders and attract more wholesale business.
“Before the premises became available I was actually looking at a place in Peterhead but by the time I got the planning in place to submit an offer, it was already gone. The one in Newburgh wasn’t on the market but one of Zoe’s friends told me about it and it was love at first sight,” said Steve.
“It was actually a gym before. The unit is in really good condition and was pretty much immaculate. Getting the unit has been more of a necessity as our house is too small to accommodate all the orders we have. We used to live in Newburgh and our kids go to school there, so our lives are kind of based around there. When the opportunity came up it was one I couldn’t pass up.
“Initially it will be a factory for us to produce the products, but I bought a 30ft trailer last year and I’m converting it into a shop which will sit alongside the new unit. When the factory is open we’ll launch a click and collect service where customers can come and pick up their products, and when the trailer is ready, then we’ll be able to sell direct to customers there and have some seating for them, too. We’re hoping everything will be up and running in time for Christmas. I’ve got some gazebos I’ll be able to use for outdoor seating, too.
“I’ve bought quite a lot of Chalmers Bakery’s old equipment and I’m looking to increase what I’m producing rapidly. I’ve set out a clear plan with Scottish Enterprise and this is a big step forward with that. ”
Passionate about bringing vegan good to the east coast, Steve has customers up and down the area, travelling as far south as Dundee to deliver his baked items.
“I’m really proud to be a craft baker with the first craft vegan bakery. It is a dying art and there are so many shutting down. I feel like the vegan aspect is a growing market and it is great to be able to take traditional baking back through veganism. My family and I are all vegan and the feedback we get is amazing. It really is an honour.
“We’ll keep going with the markets and events and we’ll be taking part in the Virtual Taste of Grampian. We’ve upped the farmers’ markets as I’ll have bigger ovens to produce more, so we plan on doing two every weekend. I have a lot of custom down the Forfar, Dundee and Montrose area so I’ll be looking to do more farmers’ markets down there as well.”
Employing one member of staff currently, Steve is reliant on many members of his family and is keen to take on his first apprentice to help meet customer demand at the new premises.
He added: “We have a driver who works for us and we’ve started recruiting for more staff. Zoe has been helping me out with some of the decorating side of things, but I’ve got in touch with the council to see if we can get an apprentice for when we open. I’d really like to get an apprentice as it takes some pressure off me to have someone work the way I do. To make vegan goods you just have to figure out what replacements you have to use – it is a lot of trial and error. A lot of people are really impressed as when you think of baking, so many people think of eggs.
“A lot of our family helps out, my mum does a lot of the wholesale deliveries and my dad is a former tax professional so he keeps on top of all of that.
“I can’t wait to open my new bakery and I’m sure my wife will be delighted to get her house back, too!”