The UK's fastest-growing regional news network
5°C | -1°C
5°C | 1°C
5°C | -4°C
See the full forecast for your area.
Sponsored by Britelite.
Home Kent News Article
by Nicola Jordan
Former policeman John Baldock has always had a sweet tooth.
But after deciding to become a vegetarian when he was 12, he found himself with a sticky problem trying to cater for his sugary tastes.
Now at the age of 56, John has found a tasty solution by opening his own sweet shop in Rochester High Street.
And Sweet Expectations has just been declared by the Vegetarian Society as the only entirely veggie sweet shop in the UK.
John grew up on a farm and chose to give up meat because he "loved the animals too much".
He said: "When I told my mum she told me I was going through a funny phase.
"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."
Many normal sweets contain gelatin, which is derived from collagen from animal by-products.
Instead John uses carnauba wax from Brazilian palm leaves and agar agar from red marine algae.
"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" – john baldock"We get coachloads of people asking which sweets are vegetarian, especially among Asian people," he added.
John opened up his business 18 months ago after serving 30 years in the Metropolitan Police Force, 15 of them in London's West End.
He said: "It was crazy working in Soho, dealing with drugs and I was on duty the night of the gay pub bomb explosion.
"I wanted to do something completely different. I've always liked old-fashioned sweet shops with big jars."
John lives with wife Virginia 56, a school IT manager. He said: "My wife wasn't that keen on it at first. But I love working in Rochester.
"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."
Click here for more news from Kent.
Click here for more news from around the county.