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Monthly Archives

October 2018

Feel Good Food – for a reason!

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Feel Good Food – Nutritionally Beneficial

Here at Bakes and Balls, our snacks are a ‘feel good food’ for the simple  reason that natural foods taste fantastic. 

Our products are all handmade in Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales without using gluten, nuts, dairy, soya and added sugars. They are suitable for those following a Paleo or Vegan diet and Free From all 14 allergens!

Feel Good Food – Sustainable and Fairly Traded ingredients – and more

We use organic and fairly traded products wherever we can and are working to source ALL of our ingredients organically. We are proud of the fact that we have a moral compass at the heart of all we do – it extends beyond the ‘headlines’ simply because people and communities matter!

We wanted to introduce you to the story behind some of our ingredients and to the people who produce them. Hopefully this will give you an insight into what makes Bakes and Balls just that little bit different.

Bula Batiki Coconut Oil

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil from Bula Batiki is used to help bind the balls together. There are numerous Coconut Oil companies out there, but no others can claim an aim as simple as this: “to establish a sustainable source of income for the rural island of Batiki in Fiji.” Bula Batiki have recently been awarded organic status and we look forward to ordering their Organic Coconut Oil.

Bula Batiki; Coconut Oil; sustainable development; Fiji; energy; ingredients
Batiki Island – advertising Bakes and Balls!

Buf Cafe Coffee from Rwanda

The Coffee in the Coffee, Mango and Goji Super Balls is sourced by Bruce and Luke’s of Carlisle from Buf Café in Remera, Rwanda. Buf Café was established by Epiphanie Mukashyaka, who lost her husband in the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, but stayed on to rebuild her coffee farm – a truly inspirational woman!

Coffee; sustainable development; fair-trade; Buf Café
Epiphanie Mukashyaka with her son, Samuel Source: https://www.coffeehunter.com

Buf Café  buys coffee cherries from as many as 264 surrounding smallholder farmers, as well as three different local cooperatives! It has very strong links with the local communities that supply it, providing over 200 jobs at their 2 coffee washing stations during the peak harvest in addition to over 20 permanent positions. At the end of each season Buf shares any surplus profits with both the cooperatives that it works with and its washing station managers.

buf cafe, rwanda, coffee, fair trade, sustainable
Remera Coffee Drying Station

The majority of the small farmers in the area have an average of only 300 coffee trees (less than a quarter of a hectare) and use some of their land to cultivate other crops such as maize and beans to feed themselves and their families. Most of their income from the sale of coffee is used to take their children to school, pay for medical care and for investment in livestock such as a cow for milk, both for use in the home and for sale locally.

Chocolat Madagascar

Our Cocoa products come from Chocolat Madagascar who not only produce one of the finest chocolate products in the world, but are also producers of the world’s fairest chocolate!

Unlike most cocoa, this is unalcalised; unlike most cocoa; this is taken from bean to bar in-country; unlike most cocoa you can even eat the 100% cocoa bar. It truly is an exceptional product and makes all the difference to our Chocolate Orange Energy Balls and our Frocolate Spread, which was shortlisted for TWO 2018 Nourish Awards!

Chocolate Madagascar; sustainability; social responsibility; fair-trade; cocoa; cacao; chocolate; chocolate Orange; energy balls
Source: www.chocolatmadagascar.com

This cocoa only grows in the Rainforest, creating a sustainable and growing haven for the endangered animals and fauna of Madagascar. Chocolat Madagascar’s farmers produce some of the finest cocoa in the world in the Sambirano valley in Northwest Madagascar. They’re paid premium prices based on the quality of the rare cocoa beans they harvest. Higher income means a higher standard of living for the farmers and their families. After fermenting and drying, usually cocoa would be exported to Chocolate factories in different parts of the world where it would be turned into chocolate. 

Source: www.chocolatmadagascar.com

However in the case of Chocolat Madagascar,  the fresh cocoa stays in-country where it is crafted into Fine Chocolate at the Chocolaterie Robert factory . This raises the skills of local people, increases the value and ultimately contributes to raising the wealth at origin, rather than overseas: Raisetrade.

Source: www.raisetrade.com

Holy Lama’s

We use Holy Lama’s Spice Drops to help give our energy balls their fresh clean flavours. They contain no preservatives and their philosophy is simple – they create products which are pure, natural, ethical and sustainable.

Holy lama; sustainable; social enterprise; social responsibility; fair-trade
Source: www.holylama.com

The Holy Lama factory in Kerala is recognised as a women’s enterprise, as its workforce is 80% female – predominantly from disadvantaged backgrounds. They source their raw materials locally and pay farmers immediately a fair price. Their workers are paid on an equal pay basis, regardless of gender and they automatically increase their wages annually in line with inflation. The factory itself operates on sustainable principles, producing less than 1% waste during the manufacturing process – and even this goes to provide fuel or cattle feed!

Most impressively, Holy Lama produce Ayurvedic medicine to treat Parkinson’s Disease in the local community, supplying it free of charge as a charitable donation to those who need it.

Mango from Burkina Faso and Baobab from Ghana

We continue to strive for more of our ingredients to come from fairly traded and sustainable sources, so we are excited that we have been able to source Organic mango from Gebana, who work with local farmer co-operatives in Burkina Faso.

Source: www.gebana.ch

Burkina Faso, in West Africa, is one of the world’s poorest countries and ranks 185th out of 188 on the UN Human Development Index. Gebana supports over 3000 farming families, giving them long-term security by training them in organic farming practices which allows them to benefit from higher prices paid for organic fairly-traded goods

Meanwhile, in North-West Ghana, Aduna have been working with over 650 baobab producers in 20 communities as well as supporting an additional 200 women in their processing centre. Similarly to Chocolat Madagascar, this ensures that a greater proportion of the product’s value remains in-country.

Source: www.aduna.com

You will be able to find out more about both of these products in our upcoming ‘Ingredients’ blogs!

Closer to home…

We may only be a young company but we are proud to support projects both locally in Cumbria and further afield. We are directly involved in the Kendal People’s Cafe – an exciting food-waste project that won the award for Community Innovation in the Cumbria Life Food and Drink Awards 2018.

Kendal People’s Café; Food-waste; Social Responsibility; Community;
Kendal People’s Cafe – a ‘pay what you can afford’ food-waste cafe in the Lake District.

We are also proud to have supported the launch of the Matt Campbell 3.16 Resilience Brathay Trust Programme. Masterchef Winner, Matt Campbell was keen to promote healthy eating choices amongst young people and at the launch, we gave out over 600 energy balls to pupils, staff and guests at Matt’s old school, Kirkby Kendal.

Forest Side Chef Martin Frickel, approached us to look at Matts’ Marathon Ball recipe and produce a simplified version that anyone could make at home. We came up with an Apple and Blackberry recipe that was free-from (and could therefore be eaten by anyone); quick and easy to make with the family; could be frozen and taken out for lunchboxes on a daily basis – and most importantly, cheap to produce – £3 for 70 balls!

Dallaglio; rugby; charity; Rugby Works;

We have also started work on a fundraising project with Dallaglio Rugby Works to support mentoring and skills development project with young people who have been excluded from school and are in danger of falling by the wayside. We will be donating 20p from the sale of each pack of Super Balls to the project with a goal of raising £15,000 every year to support a school in the North West..


The Sugar Debate

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Taxing Sugar

Following on from the recent introduction of the sugar levy on soft drinks, the possibility of a sugar tax on foodstuffs has been mooted. I have no qualms about the value of helping the consumer to make healthier choices by using the tax system. However, we already have a tax in place that differentiates between foodstuffs as ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’. 

Historically, the VAT relief system was established ‘to allow zero-rating for most food and drink which is meant for human consumption, but to tax items of food and drink which might be considered non-essential’. Under this system, biscuits and cakes are considered ‘essential’ but confectionary ‘non-essential’. Ironically this means that  ‘toffee apples are accepted as a zero-rated food’ whether coated in toffee (sugar) or chocolate;

Is it not time to bring  the VAT system up to date so that it reflects our most important health concerns? Rather than introducing a tax that is contradictory – flapjacks are high sugar ‘cakes’ but ‘essential’?? – should we not reform an existing tax which ‘penalises’ ‘non-essential’ products such as protein or energy balls and ‘rewards’ the producers of ‘essential’ cakes and biscuits. 


I don’t dispute the fact that my products contain sugars. However, these sugars are contained within the fruit. At Bakes and Balls, we use high quality, organic fruit – dates, figs and prunes (the only fruit to have a designated health claim for digestion and bone health). The sugars are attached to the fibres in the fruit and so are released more slowly than free sugars helping the consumer to feel fuller for longer; avoiding sugar spikes and the resultant dip and need to snack again.


As discussed at the seminar “Dried Fruit and Public Health” held at The King’s Fund earlier this year, whilst high in sugars, dried fruit also brings other health benefits. Prunes contain Vitamin C – which helps the blood to absorb iron intake Dates and figs are a good source of potassium and magnesium. Currently, a third of the UK population are potassium deficient; significant because low potassium levels are linked to high blood pressure. Figs also contain Vitamins A, E and K; figs and prunes are a source of calcium – essential for good bone health; while dates contain Vitamin B6 and are a source of insoluble fibre which aids digestion. 

Prunes and figs contain soluble fibre, which helps to normalise blood sugar levels. Soluble fibre slows down the rate at which food leaves the stomach and delays the absorption of glucose. Soluble fibre also increases insulin sensitivity and can prove useful in preventing and treating type 2 diabetes. In addition, soluble fibre helps you to feel sated (that satisfied feeling when you sit back and rub your stomach, feeling full after a meal) by slowing the rate at which food leaves the stomach. Therefore you are less inclined to snack. With an impending obesity and diabetes problem, should be not be encouraging people to consume dried fruit rather than ‘let them eat cake’!

Reform VAT

The VAT issue has been the subject of many court cases, predominantly debating the question of whether or not items should be labelled as ‘confectionary’. In 2014, the ‘Snowballs’ tribunal concluded that the chocolate covered marshmallows produced by two Scottish companies were classified as cakes because of ‘the ingredients, the cooking process and the shelf life’. Meanwhile, according to one ruling, flapjacks are cakes because the syrup forms an integral part of the binding process rather than being used as a sweetener; whilst in another it is because “at the inception of VAT, flapjacks were widely accepted as cakes”.

The VAT system has become overly complex and contradictory as it has struggled to keep up with new products coming to the market place and large businesses have fought and won; fought and lost in tribunals seemingly as a result of questioning definitions of cake, biscuit and confectionary. Rather than debate such intricacies, should the focus not be one of refined sugar? Why is it written into law that biscuits and cakes are ‘essential’ foodstuffs when they are invariably items which dieticians (including those on the panel of the recent Sugar Debate in Parliament) accept should be consumed on occasion rather than as the norm. 

What remains unchallenged is the outdated acceptance of cakes and biscuits as ‘essential’ in VAT terms whilst the consumer struggles to make appropriate choices over healthier options. Ultimately, this comes down to price and so when you’re stood at the tills faced with the choices of muffins, cake bars; flapjacks against energy balls or snack bars the latter are automatically 20% more expensive because of the tax system – regardless of the relative costs of the raw ingredients.

Stephen Hall

Founder, Bakes and Balls