Honesty Group

About Us

About Us

How It All Started

“For many years it was a daydream desire of mine to open a bakery. I grew up in a household where my Mum baked bread, stubbornly refusing to succumb to the ‘life is too short’ mantra that was persuading us to get out of the kitchen in the 1970s and to buy white sliced ‘Mother’s Pride’. I have for many years been interested in the politics of food, how food is sold to us and the effect that food has on our health, happiness and well-being and of course the environment. Bread is the perfect example of how our food culture broke down in the 1960s onwards and it really heralded the start of a drive by large food manufacturers to seduce us out of our kitchens and to embrace any food item that reduced our effort at cooking, quick was good. In those early days we trusted that what was being sold to us would do us no harm.

Growing up in a council house in Basingstoke with not a lot of money, it was always important to my mother that we were fed properly. Mum had the conviction that to eat wholesome food was more important than satisfying your hunger.”

Then when Romilla had children, she saw instantly the impact food had on them, that she could light up their senses with something simple and good and have such a positive effect on their health and well-being. “I remember when my first son Joe was still little and being in the supermarket buying fish fingers for his dinner. I had a moment that changed me, when I held myself accountable for not making the fish fingers myself.  I asked myself what was stopping me when I had the time and the education to know it was so much better for him and me to do this.  And so I did.

It was around 2012 that I started to look at the possibilities of opening a bakery. Living out in a rural part of Hampshire it was almost impossible to get good bread. The supermarkets at that time had their ‘in store bakeries’ but it was clear to me that they weren’t really interested in producing the real thing, but more the allusion of freshly baked bread. If I wanted good bread I felt that others would want it as well and there could be a market for it away from the supermarkets. I also wanted to prove that good food, real food can get to the consumer at a reasonable price and that a business doing so with principles, ethics and an ethos can still make a profit. I spoke to various experts in the business, all of whom suggested that it was an ill conceived venture and as a result I put the bakery idea on the back burner.”

The Crown And Garter, Bakery And Coffee Shops

“In 2014 an unloved old coaching inn came on the market with a restaurant, tiny kitchen, 10 bedrooms and a converted barn where the previous owner had lived. I saw my chance, refurbished the pub, rooms and restaurant and changed the barn into a small bakery and coffee shop.

Since 2014 we have moved the bakery twice as a result of growth and are now in a unit in Newbury producing bread, cakes, pastries and wholesale kitchen items like pies, pasties, soups, stews, sandwiches and salads. Alongside the development of the wholesale bakery and kitchen we now have 9 coffee shops soon to be 11, the first of which opened in 2016. It is a small shop on the high street in the village of Kingsclere near Basingstoke.

When the site came up with a rent of £400 per month it seemed the perfect place to showcase our wholesale range, cheaper than placing an advert in the local newspaper. Five of our coffee shops are on small village high streets that aren’t of interest to the big brands. We sit in the community, providing a central hub for people who enjoy well produced, good food.

Our Values

The Honesty values mean doing business in a way that is better for everyone. It requires more thought, organisation and acceptance of a long-term view on profit. They address the critical concerns that impact every person in the UK today from the labour and food laws to the cost of the food industry on our environment, our local communities and our health and well being. The ambition is through living our values and delivering high quality products, service and employment, we can educate people to make better choices about food and its impact on all our lives. 

The role of educator has sometimes been tough. Our team need to be confident to address the myths and fads with facts and our values of what we will and won’t do, in the best interests of the community.  Like we will not charge a premium for non dairy milks on principal. And we limit our menu choices to be sustainably fresh every day.  For some people that can be frustrating, but happily for most, it is refreshing to learn and live better together. 

Battling With The Food Industry

“I knew I wanted to start a food company built on strong values about the power of honesty in food and the communities that food feeds.  The more I understood the dishonesty of the industry, the pretence of what was held up as fresh and natural, the more I knew I had to do something at a grass roots level. Talking about it was not enough.  I had to take action. The food industry has been plagued by a history of poor treatment of unskilled labour which perpetuate low expectations from food suppliers. Employees continue to be paid often well below the minimum wage, working hours that are unsustainable and antisocial and given little to no encouragement or opportunity to develop their knowledge or skills to further their careers.   These people are being exploited at the expense of the growth of greedy shareholders and retail chains seeking low cost and high profit, cultivating a society’s addiction to a quick fix of fast, cheap and easy food with a mindset that ignorance is bliss. 

The food labelling laws were designed to protect the small delis, café’s and family sandwich shops which prepare on site with fresh produce you can see.  The loop holes in our food laws enable food chains to hide behind the façade of “made on site” when often they are delivered on site to avoid being honest about ingredients. The reality is hidden from consumers. That any sandwich bought in a mainstream chain was made and snap frozen 3 months prior to being purchased or the doughy soft white loafs of bread and pastries wrapped in plastic with extended shelf lives are filled with an ingredients list as long as your arm and limited nutritional value and toxic health implications was not transparent. 

The processing aids that don’t need to be legally shown on packaging such as enzymes in bread to prolong shelf life are made from the likes of pork, bird feathers and bleach, all to maintain the façade and keep consumers ignorant with the perception of freshness and low food prices.”

Bread - Back To Basics

Romilla was inspired by the four simple ingredients that make bread and a desire to reconnect communities back to the honest goodness of this nutritious human staple.

 “We need to be eating real bread because it’s better for us, better for the local economy and better for our planet. We each make at least a couple of buying decisions every day. People can take a powerful form of direct action to make a better world and make your health better by being more conscious of what we buy to eat.   Because not all bread is the same.   

At Honesty we employ skilled bakers who work with 4 foundation ingredients – flour, salt, water and yeast – not enzymes, emulsifiers, trans fats and preservatives to name a few of the nasties that go into the doughy white loaves that last for weeks. 

We source our ingredients from local suppliers, using wheat flour and heritage flours in our breads. And we bake our bread in a traditional way, in local communities and presented it with limited packaging.”  

Our Team

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