Sustainability Spotlight

Sustainability Spotlight | September: Cakewhole Plymouth

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Cakewhole
Posted on
19 Aug 2023
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This September we’re turning our Sustainability Spotlight on Cakewhole, a small, family run bakery, coffee shop and wholesaler in Wilton St, Plymouth.

We asked owners Natalie and Martin, to tell us about the business and their efforts to make it more sustainable.

“Don’t expect that everything you do will have quantifiable benefits; you don’t have to be able to measure something for it to be worthwhile.”

Tell us about Cakewhole

We’ve come a long way since 2014 when we started Cakewhole, baking in our little oven at home.  We took on new premises at Wilton Street in 2018, and now we employ nine staff and supply around 25 restaurants and cafes in Plymouth and the South Hams.

We also have a retail outlet at the bakery where customers can pick up a coffee and a slice or two of their favourite cake, most of which are Gluten Free and/or Vegan.  The Cakewhole shop is an important presence in the local community.  We know all our regulars (and their ups and downs) quite well and it occasionally feels like we’re providing a counselling service as well as cakes and coffee!

​Despite our growth, we haven’t compromised on the things that are important to us: we still use only the best quality ingredients, locally sourced where possible, to produce premium cakes and traybakes.

What have you done to make your business more environmentally friendly? 

All our cakes are delivered in re-usable plastic boxes, reducing packaging (and keeping the cakes fresher, thereby reducing food waste).  Empty boxes are collected on the next delivery.  This isn’t an easy option – we have nearly a hundred boxes to keep tabs on, and ensuring that they come back to us, and clean, occupies a fair bit of time.

Our city deliveries are all made by Zedify cargo bike, which reduces massively our carbon footprint as we don’t have our van doing stop/start urban driving; this also helps reduce air pollution in the city and one less vehicle on the road helps reduce congestion.  Our out-of-town deliveries are made by van, but our delivery routes/days are planned carefully to keep mileage to a minimum.

We optimise our baking schedules to make them as efficient as possible.  We have condensed our baking into four days rather than five, and further reduce our energy use by close monitoring of our refrigeration needs.  This has reduced our energy consumption by 20%.

Buying locally as far as we can also keeps our carbon footprint down.

All our coffee cups are compostable and we only use paper/card for packaging our retail cakes.  We don’t use any single use plastic

All of the above make economic sense too – the re-usable boxes pay for themselves after 10 re-use cycles, and cargo bike deliveries save us money on diesel, vehicle wear and tear and drivers’ time.

We do as much as we can to support local businesses; our disposables come from a small, family run Plymouth business and our bread from bakeries in Plymouth and one in Cornwall. Our window cleaner is a small, independent business, as are our electrician, plumber and knife sharpener. Our relationships with all these local businesses provide a network of help and information that benefits everybody. 

What would you like to change in the future to improve your sustainability credentials further? 

At some stage, we’d like to make the switch to an electric vehicle for all our out of town deliveries; however, this represents a large capital investment and at present remains an aspiration.  Making our energy consumption more sustainable is another ambition, but the layout of our premises doesn’t allow for the installation of solar panels.

What tips do you have for other businesses that would like to become more sustainable?

Don’t be afraid to take what might seem to be big and brave steps.  Do your research first of course – time spent in preparation is never wasted – but moving out of your comfort zone might not be as uncomfortable as you expect.

New initiatives will very often throw up problems that you never envisaged, but equally often they will produce benefits and opportunities.

Don’t expect that everything you do will have quantifiable benefits; you don’t have to be able to measure something for it to be worthwhile.  The intangibles, things that just make you or your customers feel good, are valid too!


To find out more about Cakewhole visit their website at www.cakewhole.co.uk

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