Clare Marriage founded Doves Farm alongside her husband and business partner Michael Marriage. Founded in 1978, Doves Farm offers one of the widest ranges of flour and baking ingredients on the market. It is the UK’s leading organic and free from flour producer and offers a range of naturally free from flours and products under its Freee by Doves Farm brand. Over 95 per cent of Doves Farm products are vegan friendly and currently 24 products are certified vegan and bear the logo on pack.
What inspired you to opt for Vegan certification?
If you follow a specific diet or cannot eat certain foods, it can be really difficult to know what food products are suitable for you or not. I was a vegetarian for 12 years myself and a vegan for several of these, so I know first-hand that it can be hard to find products that meet your needs. An independent certification from the Vegan Society means that our customers can be confident knowing which of our products are suitable for them and they don’t have to spend ages scouring ingredients lists. We clearly label on our packaging which products are Vegan certified to help make it really easy for people.
Why do you think this is important for bakery products?
With bakery items in particular, butter and milk are often key ingredients so it can be hard for those on a vegan diet to find products they can enjoy. It’s for this reason that we decided not to use dairy or other animal derived ingredients in any of our Freee bakery products such as our oat bars and our cookies.
Doves Farm began offering free from and vegan foods before many other companies were doing so, why?
Whole, natural foods and vegetarian ingredients have always been at the heart of the foods we make at Doves Farm. Stoneground wholemeal flour was one of the first products we made back in 1978, at a time when it was almost impossible to buy ground whole grain flours. The wholefood stores around at that time were natural customers and over the years our offering grew to include many unusual flours, several free from flours and various baked goodies.
In the late 70’s my mother had to go on a wheat free diet. At the time, it was really hard for her to find suitable foods – and in particular bread and bakery items – that she could enjoy. A lot of people who couldn’t eat gluten also missed out on the joys of home baking because previously there weren’t many ingredients on the market that they could use.
Our free from journey started by producing a naturally free from flour in 1978 so that others who cannot or don’t want to eat gluten can enjoy home baking with good quality, free from ingredients. We soon realised that as well as gluten, there were significant numbers of people out there with other dietary requirements such as vegan or dairy free.
At Doves Farm we opt where possible to work with independent bodies such as The Soil Association, The Vegan Society, Vegetarian Society and Coeliac UK to have our products certified so that we can really clearly label on pack the suitability of our products.
I think having that independent certification gives our customers added assurance.
What ingredients did you find most difficult to source vegan alternatives for?
Chocolate is always a difficult one as a lot of chocolate contains dairy or traces of. Our Chocolate Chip Oat Bars are vegan certified and we use chocolate chips made from cocoa butter and cocoa mass, rather than dairy. We promise you won’t miss the dairy and it means the product is suitable for vegans as well as people on a dairy free diet.
There has been a growing interest in vegan foods recently, why do you think this is?
I think more people are recognising the health and environmental benefits that a more plant based diet can offer. The rise of campaigns like Meat Free Monday and the number of chefs writing cookery books encouraging us to eat more plant based foods means that there are a number of ‘flexitarians’ now who are not necessarily vegan or vegetarian all the time, but are opting to include more plant based foods in their diets for lifestyle reasons.
From our perspective I think it’s really important food companies clearly label their products and make things easier for customers so they know what they are buying and if it meets their needs.
So what’s next for Doves Farm?
We’ve always offered naturally free from foods since launch, but this year we decided to create a specific brand called Freee by Doves Farm. All of our free from products will come under the Freee brand to really sign post to customers which products are free from and who they are suitable for. We’re looking forward to growing and expanding that side of our business.
For more information about Doves Farm, please visit www.dovesfarm.co.uk.