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FOCUS: The fight to keep the Jersey Wonder alive

FOCUS: The fight to keep the Jersey Wonder alive

Tuesday 18 October 2022

FOCUS: The fight to keep the Jersey Wonder alive

Tuesday 18 October 2022


In another example of rising costs of living impacting all parts of island life, Express takes a closer look at how one 'Genuine Jersey' business is having to adapt to keep an age-old local treat alive.

Collette Labey - aka 'The Jersey Wonderer' - runs a business making the traditional Jersey Wonder from her home in Grouville.

Wondering back into baking

A "delicious Jersey traditional cake passed down through the generations", Collette describes them as "Jersey's equivalent to a doughnut", although they "are neither coated in sugar, nor filled with jam". 

"Jersey born and bred" Collette started making Jersey Wonders over 20 years ago, but then "life got busy" and she "reluctantly stopped" making the Wonders as she was working as a childminder whilst also having her own young family to raise.

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Pictured: Collette gets up at 4am every Saturday morning to make her Jersey Wonders assisted by husband and Connetable of Grouville, Mark Labey.

However, she says it was always her intention to start again when her family had "grown up and left the nest".

Five years ago, Collette was reminded of how much she loved making Wonders when she helped her cousins make some to sell for charity. 

She said: "We had so much fun as a family, I remembered the pride I had felt when I had produced a Genuine Jersey product so decided this time to do it right.

"I got my health and safety certificate, kitchen checked, become a Genuine Jersey member (two of your ingredients have to be local so that was the butter and eggs for me), got bags printed and then went out and found me a few outlets."

Hundreds of Wonders a week

"As word got out, I had shops contact me which was very exciting as I watched my business grow!" Collette recalled.

"I must say thanks to covid it really took off as people were walking, running, driving past my house and saw my sign outside so would stop and buy."

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Pictured: As well as supplying shops and other outlets, Collette also supplies Wonders to offices, birthday parties and weddings.

At the beginning of covid, Collette was cooking every day and making 1,200 Wonders each week.

However, she has now scaled that back and only sells Wonders on Saturdays, making around 500 each week.

Collette makes the dough the night before and then gets up at 04:00 alongside her husband, Grouville Connétable Mark Labey. Collette shapes the Wonders, whilst the Constable cooks them for her and then Collette bags them for delivery by 09:30.

 

Despite the early starts, Collette explained that she loves how Jersey Wonders "bring people together and the stories shared how their grandmother used to make them".

She added: "The Jersey Wonder is a part of Jersey history and we need to keep it alive!"

"They are on the decline because of rising costs"

However, this is proving more difficult due to rising costs.

Since starting The Jersey Wonderer five years ago, the prices of Collette's products have remained the same but this is unfortunately no longer viable.

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Pictured: Collette makes 500 Wonders every Saturday morning.

She said: "Babs Bechelet, the other Wonder lady in Grouville, and myself have worked so hard to get the Jersey Wonder back out there on the shelves in shops and cafés but through no fault of our own, they are on the decline because of rising costs."

The rising price of oil has been particularly noticeable, as so much as needed in the Wonder-making process.

"60% of the oil is made in Ukraine"

Each Saturday, Collette uses 20 litres of oil.

Collette explained: "We used to order our oil from France on a full pallet and then would stock up, but when we went to reorder we noticed the oil had gone up quite a bit.

"Once the War in Ukraine became more prevalent, the price of sunflower oil rocketed. Who would have known that this war would affect my Wonder business, but I learnt 60% of the oil is made in Ukraine.

"My eyes were opened to the way the world problems affect us all."

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Pictured: She needs 20 litres of oil to make the Wonders each week.

"The oil has just gone up again even from last week. In 2020, it was a steady £1.62 a litre and now it's £5.31 a litre. Not just oil but all other ingredients have increased, mostly eggs and butter. I get my eggs though from Allan at Happy Hens and will continue to support him, but his business has also been affected by rising costs on chicken feed."

It is due to the rising prices that Babs of 'Jersey Wonders by Babs' has had to cease production of her product after having made Wonders for decades. In a Facebook post, she described the "financial pressures" as "simply not sustainable".

 

Collette expressed her disappointment that Babs has had to stop making Wonders, saying: "It's very sad the Babs has had to give up but hoping if and when things settle down, she will be back and cooking her Wonders."

"I will continue for as long as I possibly can"

There is also the worry that her business might suffer the same fate, but Collette says she will not go down without a fight.

She said: "I will continue for as long as I possibly can but must remember that should I be unable to continue, it will be because the decision will have been taken out of my control. That will be a sad day for sure." 

Things are looking promising after there was a huge outpouring of support on The Jersey Wonderer's Facebook page.

Many customers pledged to continue buying Collette's Wonders despite increasing prices.

"They don't want to see this Jersey tradition die out"

Collette explained what this means to her: "My customers' support means everything to me because without them I would not be able to continue my business.

"I get a huge amount of pleasure hearing that are happy to pay the extra price and like me they don't want to see this Jersey tradition die out."

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Pictured: Collette believes that "wherever there's a special occasion, there should be a special Jersey Wonder!"

"If I worked out the time (which I have actually!) and electricity I use to produce my Wonders, I probably wouldn't do it but I continue because I love making them and hearing that they bring a smile to everyones face that buys a bag."

You can follow The Jersey Wonderer on Facebook, email Collette on thejerseywonderer@gmail.com or message her on 07797 729163.

As well as supplying shops and other outlets, she also supplies offices, birthday parties and weddings with the motto: "Wherever there's a special occasion, there should be a special Jersey Wonder!"

READ MORE...

More in-depth reporting from Express on the impact of the cost of living crisis on islanders...

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"The main problem for people is rent, which makes it so hard to attract staff" - Rudy's Barbershop

Removal companies “absolutely crazy” with relocation requests

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