For every yin, there is always a yang. While some firms suffer in the face of recession, pie producers can take heart that comfort foods are on the up, with Mintel even revising its market growth figures upwards.
"[Savoury pastries] were showing steady growth anyway but they’re proving to be recession-proof because of all the things we knew they offered, such as comfort and value for money," says Proper Cornish marketing manager Mark Muncey.
The growth seems to be coming both from foodservice and a greater take-up of hot savouries-to-go in multiple retailers. "From a Proper Cornish point of view, we’re finding that it’s very positive, both in the multiples and in foodservice," says Muncey. "What we’re finding is that the independent pasty shops, and those selling savoury pastries on the high street, are actually doing quite well. But we’re also being courted by the supermarkets, because they see the hot food-to-go savoury pastry opportunity as being an alternative to sandwiches."
One problem in the market has been a slowdown in product innovation - as has been reported in other areas of the baking industry - with traditional flavours and formats coming to the fore. Muncey believes NPD will have to return to meet the predicted growth in the market. Proper Cornish has been working on different shapes, such as savoury crowns, and breakfast eating occasions for retail, he reveals.
Demand also appears to be increasing for slices, with Swansea-based Lewis Pies seeing the biggest growth for steak, chicken and mushroom and chilli slices. Vegetarian pasties have also been showing strong growth, says national account manager Dave Philips. "Our vegetable curry is really going well," he says. "Whatever market you’re in, vegetarian products can be quite bland, but we’ve put a lot of thought into it. It’s not a large part of our business, but the biggest interest we had at the Bako London & South East open day was for our vegetable curry pasty."
While he says "pies are holding their own", and have not been showing huge growth, Lewis has introduced a popular range of Credit Crunchers - 130g pasties, with six fillings, that retailers can offer at a competitive price, such as two for £1-£1.09. "In the present climate it’s proving very successful," he says.
Meanwhile, Pukka Pies says its frozen bake-off lines are performing strongly and has introduced three new shortcrust pies into its Baked By You range: 200g steak and kidney, chicken and mushroom and minced beef and onion, which are said to have high ratios of filling to pastry. "Over the past year we have seen significant increases in demand for our frozen unbaked lines - in part due to industry consolidation, but also due to our ability to control costs and minimise price increases to our customers while maintaining the quality," says Peter Mayes, marketing and business development controller at Pukka Pies.
=== UK retail value sales of pies and pasties, 2003-13 ===
Original size and forecast Revised size and forecast
2003 865 865
2004 875 875
2005 881 881
2006 890 890
2007 892 892
2008 901 925
2009 909 929
2010 918 939
2011 925 946
2012 929 954
2013 934 961
Note: Mintel correlates historical market size data with key economic and demographic determinants, using forward projections of these factors to forecast market size; the number of over-35s was the first factor used in the forecast, as this age group is core consumers of pie and pasty products; the second factor used was the more affluent ABC1 population, as demand is now increasingly placed at the premium end of the market
Source: Mintel, March 2009
=== Pies and pasties, revised market forecasts ===
The forecast for the pies and pasties market has been revised by Mintel, with sales now higher than originally expected due to:
* Their emergence as an important comfort food. Pies and pasties have performed better within the economic downturn encouraged by the category’s relatively good value for money proposition attracting consumers. As such, this factor is predicted to continue to boost sales during recession
* Consumers replacing some main meals with lighter snacks during the day; the convenience of pies and pasties fits busy lifestyles
* Branded manufacturers improving the healthiness of their offerings, with higher quality ingredients and premium recipes encouraging more women to the category. Source: Mintel, March 2009