FEATURE: Vegan diet inspires creation of plant-based organic Cradle café and bakery in Sudbury
A compassionate animal lover, Holly Sutton made the conscious decision to refrain from eating meat.
Since the age of six, she has remained a devoted vegetarian, before more recently, adopting a vegan diet, avoiding the consumption of any animal products.
Holly’s strong principles, which are shared with her partner Christophe Vigie, inspired the formation of Cradle – a café and bakery in Sudbury, dedicated to serving plant-based dishes using locally-sourced organic produce.
Keen to incorporate their new lifestyle choices into creative thought-provoking dishes, the pair opened the eatery in North Street.
“It was the motto of ‘that’s what we eat, so that’s what we are going to cook’,” says Holly. “It’s part of our beliefs.”
Prior to the new venture, the pair ran a bakery in the French Loire Valley region for six years.
“In the last year, we became vegans and decided we had to have a vegan bakery, so we came back to the UK to move closer to my family,” says Holly, who grew up in from Halstead.
“It became apparent that we wanted more variety as we were very limited there, so it seemed right to come back and start something new.”
The couple, who met while working together in Brighton, decided to set up a bakery in France, where Christophe is originally from, using their combined baking skills to run the business.
“We went back to France to visit his family and the seed was planted,” says Holly. “It kind of snowballed into us buying a bakery.”
The business proved an enduring challenge for the pair.
“It was very different because we were on our own there,” she says. “We had no support and we were producing bigger quantities.”
Living in a rural community, close to organic farms, where they sourced their ingredients, encouraged the couple to re-evaluate their lifestyle, prompting them to adopt a vegan diet.
As a youngster, Holly developed an appreciation for animals.
“I’ve been a huge animal lover all my life,” she says. “My mum has been a vegetarian since she was in her twenties and she’s now a vegan.
“She’s an animal rights activist, so it’s always been in my blood.”
Operating as a social enterprise and Community Interest Company (CIC), enables a large portion of the profits to be reinvested back into the community.
“It means that we are here to make a difference to benefit the community,” says Holly.
The business prides itself on creating unique dishes using ingredients, which have been ethically grown, while enhancing biodiversity through its methods - an important practise the couple have implemented at the café with the creation of their own permaculture garden.
Surrounded by protected woodland, the couple have started growing produce on a large plot of land, three miles from Sudbury.
“It’s putting nutrients back into the land and soil,” says Holly.
A newly-installed compost on the site will enable organic matter to be decomposed naturally, before being recycled back into the environment, reflecting the couple’s zero-waste policy.
The majority of the café’s produce comes from suppliers in Essex and Suffolk.
Working with solely plant-based ingredients has encouraged the couple to come up with innovative dishes.
“It’s totally organic and vegan, but that helps when you have a small range of things,” says Holly. “It forces you to be creative, so it’s a really good learning curve.”
Part of the charm in relying on fresh food is the spontaneity of the ingredients.
“We never really know what’s going to be available,” says Holly. “It changes all the time - we don’t have a set menu.”
A quarter of the business’s customers are vegan, with the majority returning or visiting the café for a unique experience.
With a heavy focus on food production in-house, the business maintains high standards.
“We create everything here so know where it has come from,” says Holly.
Since the eatery was established in 2017, the business has continued to grow from strength to strength.
“We couldn’t ask for a better response from the community, we have been so busy since day one, so we are very happy that we can thrive and make more money,” says Holly, who is glad to have exceeded the expectations of those who expressed their scepticism over pursuing the venture.
“A lot of people thought it wouldn’t work because it’s a small Suffolk town, but people are looking after their health, even more so now,” she says. “I thought it would work.”
The couple are delighted their bold aspirations are now reaping the rewards.
“I didn’t really know the town very well,” says Holly. “But that was a positive for me because it was new for us – we just went on intuition.”