A former Metropolitan policeman has given up his day job to become the proud owner – of Britain’s first vegetarian sweet shop.
John Baldock, 56, always had a sweet tooth and after becoming a vegetarian at the age of 12 but struggled to find sugary treats without animal extracts.
Confectioners traditionally use gelatine, an animal extract, to make most boiled and chewy sweets, including marsh mellows.
After 30 years serving with the Met – including five years in London’s West End – John came up with a tasty solution and invested his police pension into his own sweet shop.
His new business, Sweet Expectations in Rochester, Kent, is now the only entirely veggie sweet shop in the UK.
The former cop says it has been a huge success with hundreds of regular customers enjoying the sweets made with plant extracts instead of gelatine.
Father-of-two John, who lives with wife Virginia, 56, a school IT manager, said he is a “big kid at heart”.
He said: “It was crazy working in Soho, dealing with drugs and I was on duty the night of the gay pub bomb explosion.
“Working for the police is all encompassing and it can be hard when you retire. Now I have a new challenge to focus on.
“Being able to talk to all kinds of people is a skill I have brought with me into working in the shop.
“I wanted to do something completely different. I’ve always liked old-fashioned sweet shops with big jars.
“My wife wasn’t that keen on it at first as she thought I would be working every Saturday, but I’ve got Saturday girls so I have most weekends off. I have a really nice lifestyle.”
John, who grew up on a farm, added: “I gave up meat because I loved the animals too much. When I told my mum she told me I was going through a funny phase.
“It is very difficult when you are a vegetarian to find products that you know are 100 per cent meat-free.
“Most people don’t know when they buy some red coloured sweets they are coloured with cochineal – in other words they are eating crushed beetles.
“Now we only sell sweets which contain beetroot.
“We get coachloads of people asking which sweets are vegetarian, especially among Asian people.
“There are so many vegetarians across the UK now and I think my shop has filed a gap in the market.
“Of course it’s nice having tourists coming in and spending their money but we also have a lot of regulars coming in now. I suppose I’m a big kid at heart.”
Many normal sweets contain gelatin which is derived from collagen from animal by-products.
But John uses carnauba wax from Brazilian palm leaves and agar agar from red marine algae to make his vegetarian version.
A spokesman for the Vegetarian Society confirmed John’s shop is the only entirely veggie sweet shop in the UK.