Those looking for a vegan junk food fix can fill up on nuggets or ‘sausage’ rolls, but when it comes to an indulgent plant-based bake it can be a little more difficult.
British family bakery Bells of Lazonby are looking to fill this gap by launching a new brand, called Bells & Whistle, which will kick off with three vegan cakes 18 months in the making.
The layered cakes, which come in flavours like Berry & Cashew, Nut Truffle and Ginger & Apricot, will hit the shelves of Sainsbury’s on June 9, selling for £2.75.
Each variety consists of a baked base, a ganache layer and a topping of chocolate, berries and nuts, with four small slices contained in each pack. All are free from gluten, wheat and dairy.
The Berry & Cashew Cake has a coconut and chocolate baked based and a cranberry and roasted cashew chocolate ganache, topped with vegan white chocolate and hand finished with a berry crumb of dried cranberries and raspberries.
For the Nut Truffle cake, there’s a coconut and almond base, with roasted hazelnuts, cashew and pecan ganache smothered in vegan white chocolate and toasted hazelnuts, while the Ginger & Apricot variety also has a coconut base and a chocolate ganache with ginger and apricot that’s covered in white chocolate and chopped pistachio.
“We have been baking since 1946, so we have a real heritage in baking and innovation and wanted to create a new cake brand that was targeted at a younger audience,” Josh Boydell-Smith from Bells & Whistle told Food Spark.
“What we found was the round cakes had been slowly falling out of favour and we took a look at why – it’s quite a big eat and there’s a lot of calories in that. So we wanted to create something to target a lifestyle market and wanted to create something that could be enjoyed by as many people. Veganism is something everyone could enjoy if it’s done really well and we saw a gap to do an indulgent bake in that space.”
Making cakes contemporary
A tour around the country in cities like Manchester, Birmingham and London inspired the product development, explains Boydell-Smith, as the bakery business had in-depth conversations with people who enjoyed vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free food.
“With vegans in particular, there is a lot of diversity in the food and flavours, and we looked at vegan street food and were inspired to create a layered cake slice,” he says.
“We took a look at all the brands that are in free-from at the moment and they all operate in a very similar space… We saw a big gap for the highest demographic – within free-from food it’s the younger audience between 18 and 30. Within baked goods, we didn’t see a brand playing within that space and we wanted to be that brand that was able to push contemporary cakes forward within the realm of veganism and free-from food.”
Interestingly, ProVeg International, the food awareness organisation, recently identified plant-based baked goods, specifically ready-to-eat cakes and pastries, as a current area that is underserved in the vegan category.
It’s an area that The Handmade Cake Company dipped their toes in, with an ambient range of cakes back in April that included a vegan and gluten-free spiced fruit granola cake, although this was positioned as an on-the-go breakfast.
Exotic flavours and more indulgent products
For the Bells & Whistles brand, Boydell-Smith says they started with a portfolio of 10 to 15 flavours to create the cakes and they narrowed down the top three through consumer feedback. There are plans to expand the range into exotic flavours in the near future.
“We developed a tonka bean flavour, which was so rich and indulgent – which was great, but we didn’t think it could launch straight away, though we could launch that down the line,” he comments.
There are also plans to expand into different formats and categories, including travel, as well as more indulgent products, although Boydell-Smith won’t reveal any details.
Each slice is under 120 calories, which was an important part of the development, as Boydell-Smith says their research found that consumer wanted to enjoy good quality indulgent food but didn’t want to break the calorie bank.
Other supermarkets are expected to come on board to list the products, and Bells of Lazonby has also secured a large export order that will see it heading over to Australia in October.
“I think veganism as a trend that’s definitely here to stay and there is just going to be more and more innovation, definitely in indulgent treating, but with most categories within food as well,” adds Boydell-Smith.