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✨️IRL STUFF OMG – we love your faces!✨️

So happy to have a handful of market dates to tell you about it’s UNREAL. I miss ya faces!

✨️04.02 Swindon Vegan Fair Vegan Fairs
✨️18.02 Bath Craft & Flea Craft & Flea
✨️19.02 Newbury Vegan Fair Vegan Fairs
✨️ 21.02 Temple Quay Market
✨️ 24.02 Bridgwater Vegan & Eco Living Market Vegan Fairs
✨️ 04.03 Leicester Vegan Festival Vegan Events UK
✨️ 05.03 Frome Independent Market

Trading at markets is the thing that keeps the fire in my business-belly and was the the reason I started Dark Matters after moving away from London. I’d been a stallholder at Greenwich Market with my little chocolate company in 2010 and completely fell in love with the environment, the people and the joy of seeing people enjoy something you’ve made in person. It’s bloody hard work and there are tears and tantrums (lol), but the buzz you get after a busy market day beats any 9-5!

When I say I love doing events and seeing customers face to face, I really REALLY mean it! ?
Hopefully more to confirm as we get into the swing of 2023 ?

Gemma at Dark Matters markets

Other lovely stuff!

?Only 2 days left of 20% VCARD discount – you can even make advance orders for future dates by letting us know when you’d like them for in the Comments box at checkout
? February’s Goth Box limited edition Valentine’s special is ? that close to being sold out – woohoo! I’m so excited to show you its innards! Most of it will be handmade by yours truly, even the non-edible extras, which I might come to regret but projects like this are what make me happy, so thank you if you’ve ever bought a special edition box!
?ALSO ALSO ALSO we’ve just put out our yearly drop of our double brownie gooey hearts which will be online for the next 2 weeks only! Available in Gothberry (dark mixed berry) Raspberry (from last year’s emo special) and our OG Salted Caramel. These will sell out and are a customer favourite so don’t leave it too late to order!

Raspberry Double Stack Brownie Heart with 'bleeding' Raspberry Jam and Raspberry Chocolate Ganache Centre held in hand for scale

This week I’ve mostly been doing battle with receipts to finish my tax return whilst listening to our Goth Valentines playlist, I’ve dropped it below so you can enjoy it too! (The playlist, not the tax return….)

Love & bats & stuff,
Gem x

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Black Friday? Balls to it!

We aren’t a factory.
We don’t have a huge warehouse full of stock.
We haven’t increased our prices only to ‘discount’ them over this weekend.

In actual fact we bake everything to order and are so limited on capacity that in previous years Black Friday cost us money in lost revenue closer to Christmas.

As a small business we feel a lot of pressure to compete and match what the big boys are doing, which sucks and isn’t a fair reflection of the amazing artisan products we pour our hearts and souls into making. 

BUT, I get it! Stuff is hard right now, and discounts are lush.

But you know what is better than discounted?


Yep! Instead of offering a ‘cheeky discount’ we’re adding a FREE trio of Festive Brownie Balls to every order placed from 23rd – 28th November AND we’ll be donating 5% of your order total to charity (Caring in Bristol)

Just see this as a little token of appreciation for buying from a weeny teeny business like Dark Matters

Gem x?

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Queens of Stephen King – special edition box time!

Last year the Losers Club got Carrie‘d away and our Stephen King Special Edition brownie box sold out mega quick – you guys (Castle) Rock.

So we’re doing a Revival!
We’ve created another box dedicated to King’s wonderful and wicked women – back in a Blaze of glory for you Needful Things who were left in Misery
But don’t (Doctor) Sleep on it – we’re only dispatching til 12th Nov, so once ITs gone ITs gone. That’s your (Salem’s) lot.

Here’s The Shining list of treats you can find in your Stephen King Special. And it ain’t no Bag of Bones


Spiced Toffee Apple and Cider Caramel Brownie with Cinnamon Cookie Base

Red Velvet Brownie with Berry Conserve and Sweet Cream Cheeze Swirls

Rich Double Chocolate Brownie Marbled with Vanilla Poundcake Marble

Fudgy Cinnamon & Caramel Brownie Truffle Balls with a Chipotle Heat and Bourbon Kick (will warm your cockles, won’t melt your face off!)

Who could resist this pun and an excuse for Dark Matters koozies?! Perfect for keeping your Nozz-A-La frosty!

Lucky dip from four designs: Rose The Hat (Dr Sleep), Annie Wilkes (Misery), Christine (Christine) or the Grady Twins (The Shining) 

Dedicated and dorky Dark Matters Playlist to make you Castle Rock!

? Everything is 100% vegan. Always and forever! ?

Toffee Apple Brookie
Toffee Apple Brookie

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Five Years Vegan: Happy Veganniversary To Us!

Gemma and Roy the Pig lying in a field at Deans Farm Trust Charity Farm

TL;DR CAPITALIST FRIENDLY VERSION: We went vegan five years ago and still have a business. WOOHOO! Celebrate by exchanging some money for discounted brownies: get 20% off when you order online with offer code VEGANUARY20 til 31st January.

Happy Veganniversary to us!

It’s Dark Matters’ 5th Veganniversary! January 2017 I finally finished the transition from being a milk ‘n’ eggs bakery, to being 100% vegan. I spent almost two years testing, researching and slowly (and secretly) moving more products over to vegan versions. It’s one of the scariest business decisions I’ve ever had to make, but also the easiest Cos if I hadn’t, or it didn’t work out, Dark Matters would be no more.
So here’s to still being here and busier than ever 5 years later!

When we started in 2013, having a business that only sold brownies was uncommon. In fact, I think we were one of the first ‘just brownies’ businesses in the country?? So making the business even more niche just wasn’t on my radar. It was hard enough trying to get people to understand why I was just selling brownies. I remember during my first market someone asking if they were bread-pudding :’)

As our events started picking up and I was baking more and more, I very quickly realised that our consumption of ingredients was quickly increasing. First doubling, then tripling, and it was clear that this was only going to increase. Anybody who watches our Stories has probably picked up on the fact that I’m a bit of an overthinker. So this weighed on my mind – particularly the amount of eggs I was getting through.

I was a meat eater and dairy consumer at the time, and always had been. But something about both industries always sat uncomfortably with me. It left me feeling weird/guilty/icky, but I wasn’t sure why. I figured if I was going on a path where as a business I’d be actively participating in funding these industries, it was my responsibility to know exactly where every single ingredient came from.

I had to ask all the awkward questions so I could look customers in the eye each week at markets and tell them about how ace our products are. So that’s what I did!


Oooooh boy.

Awkward questions are awkward.

Especially when you’re asking them to lovely friendly egg farmers you know from lovely friendly Dorset markets. And they’ve been doing those lovely friendly markets for decades and they’ve only just started accepting me into their crowd, as a young whippersnapper. ‘And now she’s asking WHAT??’

Honestly I’m getting second hand cringe now. But it had to be done.

Without going into the nitty gritty, as soon as I found out…

a) that cows need to be/have been pregnant in order to produce milk, and
b) what happens to male chicks when they’ve been hatched (because they can’t produce eggs)

…that was it.

I went to VegFest Brighton in Spring 2015 and met up with a couple of super people I knew from markets in Bournemouth, and immersed myself in KNOWING ALL THE THINGS. Honestly, if you’ve seen the film A Clockwork Orange you’ll know what I’m talking about. It was painful, and I went in with a logical and rational brain, but I basically went vegan overnight.

It took another 2 years of me figuring out what the eff I was going to feed myself, and what the eff I was going to make my brownies out of. By this point, brownies were my only source of income and the main ingredients were now unavailable to me.

I wanted to finally transition to being a 100% vegan owned, 100% vegan business, and make our dEbUt at Vegan Life Live January 2017. It was tough, but I did it!

There were a lot of mistakes (why does nobody tell you that salt and vinegar crisps have milk in them??). There were some very, VERY dodgy recipes (thank you customers who were kind enough to say you could taste chickpeas when I was testing aquafaba). But I’m pretty bloody pleased with how I did, and today I am so proud to be a part of the small vegan business community.

And look what we’ve done!

It’s mind blowing to see vegan products E V E R Y W H E R E now. Especially in January, and all the Big Boi corporations frothing at the mouth for our ‘green pounds’. And whilst I’m not going to rush to try out whatever vegan menu MaccyDs are churning out, I still think that if they’re making room for vegan products on their menu, then that’s less room for animal products, which hopefully means fewer animals being harmed.

When people seeing vegan food alongside ‘regular’ food, it normalises it. And so those people who always felt ‘a bit icky’ about animal products will find it easier to just decide they don’t want to eat food that makes them feel weird, low-level guilt. So hopefully they’ll make the switch. And this will increase demand. And so on and so forth.

I’m absolutely chuffed to bits that I not only still have a business, but one that is growing exponentially! Which I don’t think would’ve happened if I wasn’t able to stand by my products and feel 100% confident that every single ingredient we buy is the best.

That means every Dark Matters ingredient is the most ethical, environmentally friendly, cruelty free, fairly traded, palm oil free and organic/gmo free ingredient I can source at that time. Everybody makes mistakes, and we aren’t perfect by ANY stretch, but the integrity is there, and we’re totally committed to being the greenest, ethical, vegan business we can be. We are constantly looking at ways to improve the way we operate and minimise our environmental impact, for the sake of our planet and every being on it. Captain Planet OUT.


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Vegan Biz Hit List

One of the very best things about running a small business and trading at events is meeting, hanging out with and becoming friends with some amazing folk who also run incredible businesses all across the country (usually making great food. I love food.)
Below are a handful of my absolute fave vegan businesses I think you need to know about!

Got No Beef
The best vegan burger joint in the world, I often have dreams about the vegan shrimp (Cardiff)

Mr Nice Pie
Maker of fine pies and all round nice guys (Events + South Wales based)

Iuvo Skincare
Incredible cruelty free skincare and the nicest family ever. Their rose body butter works wonders on dry and irritated skin.

VE Cosmetics
One woman empire creating magical vegan and cruelty free cosmetics

The Doughnut Pod
Incredible vegan doughnuts (Events + Manchester area)

Alternative Stores
100% vegan superstore, owned and run by a wonderful vegan family

Good Carma Foods
Amazing vegan parmesan alternative, could easily eat with every meal.

Dead Head Candles
Eco, vegan goth skully candle goodness.

I Am Nut Ok
Some of the best vegan cheese on the market. Fight me.

Mighty Brew
Incredible organic kombucha and wonderful family run biz.

Viva La Vegan
Fashion as activism with % of profits to rescue animals.

Metal AF designs by vegan artists for vegan activists with attitude.

As this gets longer I may split it into categories: Food, Beauty, Clothing etc 🙂
Drop me a line with your favourite vegan businesses for me to check out!

Gem x

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Bristol Pound Blog Feature

We were chuffed recently to be asked to feature on the Bristol Pound blog, to chat business, brownies and Brizzol. Check out my recommendations at the end of the article, and maybe even a cheeky discount too!…

We spoke to Gemma Ann Lewis, who runs Dark Matters – a vegan friendly, anti palm oil independent brownie business.

Veganism is no longer a niche food movement, it’s growing rapidly throughout the UK and globally, with recent research suggesting that over 7% of the UK’s population now identify as vegan. After turning vegan herself, Gemma saw the potential to change the direction of her company and worked hard to ‘veganize’ her products without her customers noticing a difference to the taste! She replaces eggs and milk with high quality alternatives and she doesn’t use any margarines or vegan spreads that may contain palm oil.

Gemma tells us about the highs and lows of running an independent business and tells us why she loves Bristol.

Hi Gemma, tell us how you got your business up and running…
I started trading as Dark Matters in Spring 2013 when I was looking for a way to supplement my minimum wage job in Bournemouth. I had run another small chocolate business when I lived in South London and loved the freedom and challenges that come with working for myself, so was keen to see if I could make it work elsewhere with a new business. Delighted to still be here after 6 years, but it’s not been stress free.

What makes your business unique?
We started simply as an artisan chocolate brownie business with a focus on dark chocolate (hence the name), which was unusual at the time, but as the brownie market grew (and I became vegan myself for a number of reasons) I saw that there was definitely a gap in the market for us to convert the business to being vegan also.

This was in late 2015 and its one of the best things we’ve done business-wise. I worked incredibly hard to ‘veganize’ our existing recipe, taking out the butter and eggs and replacing them with high quality vegan alternatives but without our existing customer base noticing too much of a difference. We’re also a palm oil free business, so don’t use any margarines or vegan spreads as people might assume.

The real secret is we’ve actually increased the amount of dark chocolate couverture that goes in every batch, so our customers are getting even more of a chocolate hit per bite! For this reason we believe that our brownies are definitely not just for vegans (I would say our customer base is probably 50/50) and think the only real requirement is that you really love chocolate

And what do you love about your job? What’s your favourite thing about running an independent business?
As I mentioned above, I love the freedom that comes with running my own business. Once I’d had a taste of that it’s very difficult to be an employee again! The job satisfaction that comes with a really great market day is indescribable, especially if we sell out early and get the chance to grab a drink with the other traders or have a good chat with our ace customers.

The real secret is we’ve actually increased the amount of dark chocolate couverture that goes in every batch, so our customers are getting even more of a chocolate hit per bite!

What are the challenges?
I think the hardest things about running an independent business is also one of the best, I can take time off whenever I like, but I won’t get paid for it, so this is definitely a motivation to work hard in order to play hard! Not having a set reliable wage is always a worry, but in the current economy I don’t think anyone can say their job is 100% safe anymore, and the freedom and control that comes with running a small independent is definitely worth the sleepless nights in the early days of building the business and becoming profitable.

How do you keep it going?
Being in a community of like minded business owners is the best way to feel continually inspired and motivated to keep going, even in the toughest of times. Most weeks I work 6/7 days including markets, so it can be very isolating, but the comradery and support, both in person at markets and on social media is honestly one of the main reasons I’m still trading. Being able to reach out to people who are experiencing similar things in similar industries and ask for advice or feedback is absolutely priceless. We’ve also built up a brilliant customer base in the last few years, many of whom I would now consider friends (even if they only want me for my brownies!), so having that is incredibly motivating to keep baking.

Are you from Bristol? If so what part? If not – when did you move here and why?
Originally from North London but came to Bristol via Dorset two years ago. I’ve always loved the fierce independence of the city, its individuality and diversity, and support of small businesses and local enterprise. I also love being so close to nature, despite living in a city. Plus my family live in West Wales, so being closer to them is a bonus too!

Why Bristol Pound?
Whenever we visited friends who lived in Bristol before we moved it was the Bristol pound that stood out to me as one of the many incredible things about the city. I loved the idea of a circular currency, that would ensure money stayed within the city and was spent with small Bristol businesses, so I think I signed up to accept £B only a matter of days after we moved!

Where do you like to shop and where do you spend your Bristol Pounds?Are you even a vegan in Bristol if you don’t mention Cafe Kino? Still one of my favourites, no matter how many times I visit, although Bun Fiction at Kongs is creeping up to the top spot. The Portcullis pub for Sunday afternoon board games and Belgian beers after a busy market day, or the Vegan Vend vending machines in The Island or Galleries for a quick snack on the go (you can also buy our brownies!).

We’ve only recently started trading regularly in Bristol despite being located here for a while, so we’ve not had a huge amount in via £B, but when we do I tend to excitedly save them for the two things most crucial to the smooth running of the business…coffee and beer. So Grain Barge for bevvies, or Small Street Espresso for brews!

Do you have any special offers for Bristol Pound customers? Or any other offers on at the moment?
Nab 15% off our whole website range with offer code B15 and have them delivered to you, or save on postage too and collect from us (BS11) with code BRISTOLPICKUP

Thanks Gemma!

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Our Journey with Virgin StartUp

When I registered our interest to hear more on the new Virgin StartUp webpage I honestly didn’t think it would amount to anything. It was March 2014 and I’d been running Dark Matters for almost a year alongside my part-time cafe job, where everything I made on top of what was needed to basically stay functioning was ploughed back into the business (including tips!).

The idea of getting a Start Up loan seemed terrifying, and a huge commitment, so when I got a call the next day from Alyson over at Business West (a delivery partner for VSU) I was fairly overwhelmed. Luckily she was well versed in talking to stressed out start-ups, and in the 20 minutes or so that we chatted I became more and more aware that this was exactly the opportunity we needed in order to reach the next step in our business.

I was paired up with an amazing mentor who held my hand  through writing an absolutely kick-ass Business Plan and we had the loan in our bank account within three weeks. Bonkers.

Vigin StartUp Women In BusinessObviously, the money was a HUGE boost to the business.
We were able to book large (and costly) Summer events, buy more much needed kitchen equipment, finish driving  lessons (then pass my test!) and buy our first Brownie Mobile! When I first sent off an email to Virgin StartUp I had been focused on what the loan could do for my business, I hadn’t factored in the amount of support and mentoring (Hi Matt!) VSU would continually offer over the two years after receiving our loan.
From paying for our pitch at Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival, inviting us to Virgin HQ to flog our brownies to their staff at Christmas, having us cater their incredible Women In Business events and featuring us numerous times on their blog, they’ve continued to go above and beyond for us, and I couldn’t be happier that we took that step two years ago!

Search the Virgin Start Up Blog for lots more advice and articles about setting up your own business, with the right support its easier than you think!

Gem x

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Award Winning Brownies!

Beloved customers have always known how awesome our brownies are, but now we can truly say they are ‘award winning’!

Big-ups to the tasters over at 2015 Taste of the West Awards for giving SILVER our divine ‘Queen of Sheba’, and ‘New Yorker’ as Highly Commended- we’re over the moon at the results and are spurred on to get a Gold next time around.

We’re really proud to be members of both Taste of the West and Dorset Food & Drink who work really hard around the clock to promote all the amazing food and drink producers we have across the South West. Without their support and events we wouldn’t be where we are today, so if you’re a foodie explorer then have a nose and see what they’re doing over the coming months, and see which producers you have on your doorstep!

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Oranges are the new Black. [Vegan Orange Poppyseed Muffins]

I don’t know about you but I am getting royally ticked off with feeling under the weather. I have always been a sufferer of the Winter Blues, however usually the promise of fairy lights and mulled wine (or mulled cider or mulled ANYTHING) gets me through Pre-Christmas, and after that I try to enjoy the short days and use them as an excuse to eat dinner at 5pm and be snuggled under a blanket with a Stephen King book by 9. Despite the usual dread on January 2nd of the few months ahead before Spring shows its face, it usually comes along quicker than I think, and I never actually see out my plan of setting fire to *that* winter coat that never seems to be off my body, indoors or out.

This year, I admit, I haven’t made life easy on myself. You see, on January 5th myself and The Bearded Wonder (Dark Matters Market-selling Maestro and my partner in life, not just in crime) decided we would ‘do one’, as they say, and disappear off to Mexico for a month. “Hooray!” we said that day, and for every day after that for three and a half weeks while we ate and drank our way around the Yucatan Peninsula (more on THAT soon), but it had to end at some point, and by January 29th we were definitely ready to come home to the beautiful crisp Winter days and big cosy jumpers.

Yep, I’m an idealist. And I forgot about cold season. Since returning from Mexico I have been in a daily battle with my immune system, pumping it full of Echinacea, herbal (‘Cold Buster!’ ‘Flu Fighter!’ etc ect) teas and as much Vitamin C as I can get my antibacterial-gelled hands on. Lidl sell an  enormous grocer’s case of oranges, and we’ve been getting through one of these a WEEK. It seems to be doing the trick and any sniffles I’ve had tend not to amount to much, but by GOD, its hard work being this healthy! So today I’ve treated myself and baked one of my absolute all time favourite treats (that aren’t Brownie based- obv!) to use up a couple of sad looking oranges in my fridge. I try not to eat too much dairy myself as it triggers some skin problems, so went on the hunt for an easy-breezy vegan recipe I could knock up  just in time for a 4pm cuppa. Success! Delicious vegan Orange and Poppy Seed Muffins – they’ve certainly made me feel much better, despite the low Vitamin C…

Vegan Orange and Poppy Seed Muffin Collage

Taken and adapted from MyDarlingVegan

Vegan Orange Poppy Seed Muffins

2 cups plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 salt
3 tbsp poppy seeds
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp caster sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp rapeseed/sunflower oil
zest & juice of 2 oranges
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Lemon Glaze

3/4 cups icing sugar
1+ tbsp fresh orange juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a muffin tin with baking cups and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl combine soy milk and apple cider vinegar and let sit for 10 minutes to curdle. In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together sugar, canola oil, and the juice and zest. Slowly add curdled soy milk, whisking while adding, until completely incorporated. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, folding in gently until just combined.
  4. Fill the muffin liners 2/3 full and bake for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle come out clean. Set the muffins on a cooling rack to cool.
  5. Meanwhile whisk together the powered sugar and juice. You may need to add a little extra orange juice to get a thick and smooth consistency.
  6. Spoon about 1 tbsp of glaze over each warm muffins then let the muffins continue cooling until completely cool.

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Oh, hello Brownie Lover. (20% off!)

Welcome to our new pad!

All good things come to those who wait, so to celebrate the launch, and say thank you for being so patient while we get this beauty built, we are offering a lovely big 20% online discount for a whole month!

** Simply use the code ‘helloyou‘ at the checkout, and 20% will be deducted from your shop, easy peasy.**

This code will be running from today (11th November) for a whole month, so plenty of time to decide which flavour tickles your fancy!

Big brownie love,

Team DM x