Britain is a nation of pie-lovers, from the traditional steak & kidney to more exotic fare. Here’s how one company helped to fuel a nation’s obsession with the pastry product.
When they first started selling pies in 1963, Trevor and Valerie Storer would have likely thought that shifting 60 million a year was a pie in the sky idea. But that’s how far the company, now known as Pukka Pies, has come over the last half a century.
Pukka started life in Leicestershire in Trevor’s kitchen, where he and Valerie developed a recipe. He’d been inspired by his father, who was a baker alongside his brother at ‘Storer’s The Baker’s’. “Our father continued his legacy, beginning life as a bakery salesman who saw a rising trend for ready-made food – and meat pies specifically,” says Tim Storer, joint MD along with his brother Andrew.
Trevor Storer’s Homemade Pies, as they were known, were first available in local pubs, bakeries and fish & chip shops, then the rest of the Midlands and further afield. Steak & kidney, still a best-selling line, came first, followed a week later by chicken & mushroom. “1,200 pies were sold in the first week with a £200 initial investment,” Tim says.
As the business continued to grow, Trevor knew it needed a new name. They went with Pukka – a popular and fashionable Hindi-derived word for “all things genuinely, properly good”.
In 1983, Pukka Pies moved its bakery to Syston. Its capacity was doubled in 1998, with a lab added a year later. A refrigeration plant, distribution docks and innovation hub have since been introduced. “While we may have grown, we’re still based in Leicestershire, just a stone’s throw from where it all began, baking all our pies on-site using many of our parents’ original recipes,” says Andrew.
Cooking meat in the gravy for a more delicious and succulent filling is key to a great pie, they believe.
Sainsbury’s was the first supermarket to take a punt on Pukka in 2006, with Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and The Co-op coming on board at later dates.
To ensure the pies continue to fly off the shelves Pukka is adapting its range. Along with a Veggie Tikka Masala pie, launched in 2017, the firm unveiled a premium grocery range in September as its new CEO Deborah Ewan took the reins.
Pukka also embarked on a brand relaunch last year, with a marketing spend of £8m, alongside recipe renovation, a packaging revamp and investment in its 360 employees. “The founding principle of Pukka is looking after our people,” says Tim, “because if you look after your staff, they will look after your business.”
1963 – Husband-and-wife team Trevor and Valerie Storer found Trevor Storer’s Homemade Pies
1964 – The business is renamed Pukka Pies
1983 – Having outgrown its original site, Pukka relocates to Syston
1989 – Tim and Andrew (pictured) were made managing directors. Tim specialises in sales and marketing while Andrew focuses on operations
1998 – A big extension is added to the Syston site, doubling its capacity
2006 – Pukka gets its first supermarket listing, in Sainsbury’s
2017 – Deborah Ewan comes on board as the firm’s new CEO