We spoke to Owen and Callum from Rye bakery, we talked about providence, sourcing ingredients and about some of the exciting projects they’ve been working on like taking on a farm and making chocolate.
Having the farm which we took on at the beginning of last year was a massive undertaking and one that we weren’t necessarily ready for but we’re getting stuck into it. And what it’s given us the advantage to do is buy some of our core ingredients, whether it be sugar or apple juice.. Stuff like that, we can store things in the barn so we can buy things in much greater volume. So in terms of meeting the challenges that have come up as the cost of raw materials and ingredients goes up is being able to say directly to farmers and producers “this is how much we use per year” and while day to day it might not seem like we use that much of something it adds up. For example we’re using 2 tonnes of sugar every quarter which is actually a really significant amount. It’s terrifying in some ways but also that increase in buying power saves us money but also allows for better and more ethical buying. Like with coffee and chocolate, sugar is never going to be a 100% ethical commodity, trying to find ethical commodities is somewhat of an oxymoron, but we are able to do our best, the sugar we’ve sourced is from a massive regenerative farm in Brazil that don’t burn any of their cane.
The word commodity, is something ultimately that we want to resist, because the word commodity doesn’t suggest human scale, and human relationships and all of those things that we value and work towards. All of those things we do differently, flour that’s milled, direct relationships in buying. There’s a crisis in farming world wide and that relates across cacao, coffee, grain really comparatively. That’s important for us, if we mill the grain ourselves we can still make a margin and can pay really good prices for grain. The cost of grain has obviously gone up but we’re able to keep paying a premium.
Turning the normal approach to running a small food business on its head has given us an advantage. Sugar was the first thing that we decided to look at in great depth, it’s one of the main ingredients we use in the pastry kitchen, looking at where it comes from, how we get it into the country, we’ve managed to take that concept and remove that from sugar and put that lens onto any of the other ingredients that we use a lot of, nuts, salt, dairy… everywhere we can we try to directly trade with farmers. Ultimately, we don’t want to be preachy or elitist about these things, we want the upfront educator to be the product, when someone bites into one of Cal’s Chocolate bars or try’s our bread, or pastries. I think for most people that interest in providence comes after that moment of trying something that tastes that bit better.
When we started, in the first two years of our business we fit quite a considerable scale bakery into the corridor of a church. Each time we grow, to a certain extent there are new challenges and problems that require new solutions. When you get to a certain scale of production you can look at your ingredients and hopefully make a change and an impact. We are ultimately an impact and purpose driven business, we want to be working with farmers that are improving the soil, improving the health of the land that they cultivate and we want to be improving the community. So this direct approach to sourcing is wonderful on a human scale as it allows us to source say grain from a farmer in South Somerset, milling it myself here, the same story with nuts and fruit and we’re able to build relationships and community.
Lockdown forced us to move to direct trade with our farmers, sell meat, sell cheese, be people’s local grocery shop, and it was this amazing thing that I’ll remember forever. Now that we’ve come out of lockdowns we’ve done a refit of the shop and we’ve tried to focus on what we do well. We’re making our jams, our drinks, most of our core offering really. We try to take the approach we took in branding Cal’s Chocolate, how does the branding reflect the key ingredients, what is it, how does the colour reflect what it is to eat or drink it.
Rye started just over five years ago, in this crazy space in a converted church, my little boy was 1 and it’s all been pretty family focused, community, relationships and health, those have always been the core visions. Bread being at the heart of that vision, you can’t be much more connected to a community than baking bread within and for it.