A NORTH-east bakery owner has spoke out at her frustration at what she’s described as a “saturated market” of “illegal” cake businesses online.
Allison Stewart, who runs Cakes by Alli-Baba, is calling for more to be done to ensure everyone is treated fairly.
Since the start of Covid-19 Allison has noticed a dramatic increase in the number of people advertising their cake businesses on social media pages.
The 45-year-old, who has been running her firm for the past nine years, said: “Everybody became a baker during lockdown and with that has also come a saturated market on selling sites.
“You can set yourself up with a page and suddenly you are baker. Nobody is doing any checks of these people.”
Allison, who works from a unit in Laurencekirk, is regularly visited by environmental health officers to make sure all rules and regulations are followed.
She said: “It’s very frustrating. It’s one of those things where you pay your rent and all your dues and do everything correctly. But then there’s people who are not doing the same and getting away with selling cakes illegally.
“Food laws are very serious. Environmental health can turn up at my door and I’ve to let them in. But for somebody competing for the same business as me and working from home they get a phone call giving them 24-hour notice.
“It’s not fair and something that needs looked into because if we are all going for the same business we should have the same standards.
“These people need checked on.”
When Allison was faced with the realisation of lockdown and the impact to her business it was a shock to the system.
She said: “When lockdown was announced I just went home and curled up.
“I thought my business is dead, my business and gone and I just need to close the doors.
“I had my moment where I wallowed and self-pity. Then I thought right I have to make Covid-19 work for me. How do I do that?
“I knew the wedding cake work was gone and with it thousands of pounds worth of work.
“It was either become a victim of Covid-19 or diversify the business. I’ve had to survive. Doing the afternoon teas was a brilliant thing but it’s like everything else. There’s now people from home doing it.
“I would never take away enterprise because I’m all for that. But if you are vying for the same business as me then please make sure you are adhering to the same standards and regulations that I am.”
Allison believes Covid-19 has given her a fresh outlook at her business and has been boosted by news that she’s been awarded funding from the Scottish Wedding Industry Fund after being refused help from more than five other different grants she applied for.
She said: “I was constantly hit with the computer says no and I didn’t tick certain boxes.
“It seemed so unfair. But I was lucky to get backing from my mum and dad and working all the hours.
“My sales at the end of last year with still four months trading I’d beaten my sales of the previous year without any wedding work.
“With the irony of it all Covid-19 has helped my business. It made me look at my business because it gave me fresh eyes to step back and look at it.
“It gave me the strength to look inward on the business and I’m not a quitter.”
A spokesperson for Aberdeenshire Council environmental health department said: “The past twelve months have proved particularly challenging for local food businesses and have resulted in a number of new business models being developed to meet these challenges.
“The Food Safety Team have experienced a significant increase in the number of enquiries and registrations from food businesses being set up and run from home across the region.
“The service have advised that due to the various restrictions that have been in place over the past twelve months, there has been a partial suspension of the Food Law Inspection regime.
“This suspension applies nationally and has been agreed by Scottish Ministers.
“However, our food officers continue to provide a food safety service to ensure that food safety is maintained. This includes responding to food complaints, virtual inspections, registering food businesses, providing advice and guidance, specific actual inspections.”