It is less than three years since Steve Buchan launched Scotland’s first craft vegan bakery from his Cruden Bay home, making plant-based cakes, pastries and buns for an appreciative – but small – circle of wholesale customers.
Today, he is putting the final touches to the first shop under his Vegan Bay Baker banner, set to open on Peterhead’s Broad Street within the next few weeks.
It has been a rapid rise for the 30-year-old. But Steve is just getting started.
With the paint still drying in Peterhead, the ambitious baker is already making plans for shop number two.
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” Steve says, remembering the cramped oven he started out on in his kitchen as wife Zoe dodged giant bags of flour.
That was in July 2019. In 2020, Steve transplanted operations to a purpose-built bakery in a former gym in Newburgh.
“It feels like small steps,” he continues. “But then big steps at the same time when you take a step back and look at the progress between then and now.”
The location of the second shop remains a secret but Steve aims to open it before the end of the year. Right now, his focus is on a successful launch in Peterhead.
More than a bakery
“I’m confident that Peterhead is going to be a good one for us,” Steve says. “It’s more than just a bakery – it give us that point of sale, somewhere where folks can be like: ‘I want Vegan Bay Baker stuff. Let’s go here’.”
During lockdown, Steve expanded the boundaries of his wholesale operations. He now sells as far north as Turriff all the way south to Brechin.
But his success is not down to increasing numbers of sweet-toothed vegans in the north-east, as you might expect.
In fact, says Steve, the majority of his customers wouldn’t even describe themselves as vegetarian.
Vegan Bay Baker appeal
“A lot of these people are not plant-based or vegan or whatever – they just really enjoy the product,” he says.
“But being a vegan bakery helps us because we are suitable for anyone with dairy allergies, egg allergies or for people who choose to live this lifestyle. At the end of the day, it appeals to a lot of people.”
The Peterhead Vegan Bay Baker shop will open from 7am to 3pm, but Steve is unlikely to be manning the tills.
The baker operates on a different time schedule to regular people and is busy working the ovens through the night.
A normal day for him starts at 9pm and can last all the way through to 11am the next morning.
As a lifelong baker, Steve is used to it. But he admits it can make hiring new staff difficult.
“I’ve been looking at ways to try and adjust the hours to make it more sociable,” he says. “But it’s about finding the right balance where you don’t lose the quality of the product. I like it all to be fresh, and if you work through the night and deliver in the morning, you know it’s going to be fresh.”
The Peterhead Vegan Bay Baker shop will open soon on 38 Broad Street.