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Meet the Perthshire lady creating Scottish treats for people with food allergies and intolerances

Caroline McCarthy.

McCarthy’s Treats and Sweets officially launched in February 2020 to cater for international students and has been making gluten free, dairy free and egg free baked goods for home-based foodies every since.

Caroline McCarthy started her business a month before the UK went into full lockdown as a result of the pandemic.

After working for a tour company that brought over foreign students, she realised that many of them couldn’t enjoy Scotland’s traditional treats such as shortbread and tablet due to food allergies and intolerances.

Not wanting people to miss out, and with a passion for baking, Bridge of Earn-based Caroline wondered whether she’d be able to make a business out of catering for everyone, McCarthy’s Treats and Sweets.

She says: “It all started because of my job in the travel industry. I work for a tour company and back in 2019, we were getting a lot of foreign students on English language tours.

Caroline making some of the bakes from her home kitchen.

“A lot of these students had food intolerances and part of what we did was introduce them to Scottish food that they weren’t used to, like tablet and shortbread.

“It’s amazing the number of Austrian students who’ve got food intolerances, for instance. A lot of them couldn’t try anything.

“I’ve always enjoyed baking and I just thought to myself ‘I wonder if I could create something which could be along the lines of Scottish tablet that everybody could try’. So I experimented and it took me about a year to get it right.”

Getting it right

Following a period of experimentation, and developing her own dairy-free tablet recipe, Caroline began to see that there was an emerging market for her products.

“Most of the experimentation was throughout 2019 and towards the end of that year I’d come up with my dairy-free tablet recipe,” she continues.

“I then tried it out on the tutors who were with the students and they enjoyed it.

Some of the finished treats.

“After that we tried it on the kids and they all loved it and it meant that everybody could try it. So I started at that point looking into food intolerances and how prevalent that was.

“Then I started to discover there could actually be a market for this and so I started experimenting with other things and came up with some biscuits, which is what I call my ‘chocolate chip delights’. They are gluten free and dairy free shortbread with little chocolate pieces going through it.”

Vegan friendly

With so many ingredients being stripped out, Caroline found her products were also suitable for vegans, though she doesn’t market them as being so due to the fact she is not vegan herself.

“It’s gone from there really and it’s through my love of baking and wanting to experiment with something completely different that I’ve come up with my range,” she adds.

Caroline makes everything from her kitchen at home.

“Apart from me focusing on food intolerances, because I’m stripping out the gluten, the milk and the egg, it means that all my bakes are vegan as well. I don’t sell as vegan purely because I’m not vegan myself so I feel it wouldn’t be right for me to promote them as being vegan.

“At the moment I’ve experimented with everything being free from all those things – gluten, dairy and egg.

“I find that once people try it they come back but what I find is getting over that bridge of people thinking it must take like cardboard.

“It’s difficult getting over that so I am thinking of developing a range which is a mixture of products that are free from just one thing, rather than all of them.

“It’s just to introduce people to it so that it gets them interested before they decide to go for the one that’s completely free from everything.”

At the market

Currently selling her bakes through her website and at NeighbourFood’s Falkland and Errol marketplaces, there are plenty of places to try Caroline’s treats, including an upcoming trial in a Perth cafe.

She says: “Everything can be posted. If anyone in the local area – I’m in Bridge of Earn – so if anybody in Perth, Scone, Glenfarg, Almondbank area places an order for more than £12.50 then I will deliver to them free of charge.

The raw ingredients for Caroline’s chocolate products.

“I get maybe one or two orders a week through NeighbourFood Falkland most weeks, a few from Errol as well and I also have a stall at The Yard in Perth at their marketplace.

“The Rose House Cafe in Perth, where I also have a part-time job, are also interested in selling the bakes. I’ve only just started there so the bakes will be on sale there soon.

“The plan is to go down the e-commerce route. I have dipped my toe into it up until now but I’d like to do it properly. I’d love to be able to expand into premises at some point in the future but I can’t see that happening just at the moment.”

Products from McCarthy’s Treats and Sweets can also be purchased via the website

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