Way back in 1960s Leicestershire, husband and wife team Trevor and Valerie Storer started making pies.

Word of a good pie spreads fast and the entrepreneurial pair sold over a thousand pies in the first week.

Selling their signature Steak & Kidney pie to pubs, fish and chip shops and locals, the Storers’ pie popularity picked up quickly, and they soon dreamt up new recipes to keep their happy customers coming back for more.

The Storers came up with the name Pukka, a Hindi-derived word for all things genuinely, properly good.

Pukka is still an independent family company with a 360-strong team selling around 60 million pies a year in the UK and abroad.

Rachel Cranston, Head of Marketing at Pukka, tells Wholesale Manager about the biggest trends in the pie market and the return of The People’s Pie marketing campaign.

Can you tell us a little of the history of the brand?

“Pukka was founded by Trevor and Valerie Storer in Leicestershire in 1963 and is now the UK’s number one hot pie brand across the Foodservice1 and Grocery2 sectors. Today we’re still proud to be an independently run family bakery in Syston – a stone’s throw away from where it all began. We make and bake 180,000 pies and pasties every day which are supplied to wholesalers, supermarkets, convenience stores, fish and chip shops, foodservice outlets, and stadia across the UK.”

How has the pie market been performing over the last year?

“The Hot Pie category is currently worth £256 million across total retail outlets with strong year on year growth of +6.1%3, and 54.7%4 of households regularly buying into this British mealtime favourite. This demonstrates that there is a huge sales opportunity for wholesalers to take advantage of, particularly when the weather starts to get colder – and there is an increased focus amongst shoppers to enjoy warming and filling meals with family and friends.”

And how has your brand been performing?

“Our sales continue to go from strength to strength, with Pukka accounting for £42 million of total sales within the pie category – an increase of +15.8% over the past year5. Our category-leading portfolio of both chilled and frozen offerings has helped us cement our position as the runaway number one pie brand and our view for the future of the category remains positive.

“We’d urge wholesalers to stock our full range of well-loved recipes, so retail customers can ensure there’s a Pukka for everyone. To keep the brand front-of mind during an important sales period, our multichannel campaign, ‘The People’s Pie’ will be on TV and radio this Autumn – when many shoppers want a convenient and tasty hot meal as the nights start to draw in.”

How do you work with wholesalers to help them grow their business?

“We are widely stocked by wholesalers across the UK and are always looking for ways to help them grow. For example, earlier this year we provided wholesalers and independent businesses with a home delivery pack of six tasty pies to keep feeding the nation.

“This initiative provided an alternative revenue stream during a critical time and helped wholesalers to keep trading by delivering direct to consumers at home. To support these businesses further, we offered free marketing support including window posters, website banners and social media advertising. We were thrilled to be able to help businesses meet the increased demand for direct to consumer services during a difficult time for everyone.

“We also work closely with our trusted retail partners to continue to drive growth within the pie category and demonstrate tangible added value to both them and their shoppers. That’s why we offer price-marked packs within our portfolio as well as regularly running promotional activities.”

How can wholesalers maximise sales of your product?

“Wholesalers can maximise pie sales by stocking our full range which offers a Pukka for everyone – from the traditionalist All Steak, to the Chicken & Mushroom for the chip shop lover. Both of these pies are favourites when people are out and about and offering these variants mean shoppers can enjoy them at home too. They are without a doubt must-haves, cumulatively accounting for 60% of Pukka sales and are in value growth by +15% and +14% respectively6. Independent retailers and foodservice operators can pick up these SKUs – as well as the rest of our range – from all major wholesalers.”

What are the biggest trends in the pie market?

“Demand for plant-based options continues apace and is now worth over £800m in the UK, with 55% of consumers reducing their meat intake7. Pukka continues to lead the way within the pie category by delivering NPD to the market to tap into alternative consumption moments which meet the varying needs of consumers, ensuring there is a Pukka for every taste and every occasion.

“For example, our award-winning8 Veggie Cheese, Leek & Potato pie is a star performer and worth £2.6m. What’s more, it is the best-selling veggie SKU9 and added over £500k to the Hot Pie category in its first 12 weeks of launch10. Stocking a complete range, including vegetarian-friendly options, will help retailers to tap into this wide sales opportunity.

“In recent months, we’ve also seen an increase in the number of people opting for frozen food, with 32% claiming to buy more frozen products since lockdown11. Stocking the brands and products that shoppers want most will ultimately help retail customers to meet demand. Our range of frozen micro pies are ready to eat in just four minutes, offering a convenient and tasty meal – especially as we move into the colder months and shoppers look for more hot meal options.”

How are you supporting your brand this year?

“There has unsurprisingly been an increase in the number of people enjoying TV shows at home with their friends and family. This is solidified by our own research which indicates that 64% of shoppers watch TV with an evening meal,12 whilst radio is attracting more listeners than ever before as many people continue to work from home13.

“In recent months, Pukka sponsored coverage of ITV’s rerun of the Euro 96 tournament to remind people they could still tuck into their favourite match day pie at home when their team was playing behind closed doors. Our tasty pies also featured in the shows Supermarket Sweep and Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway – both of which are loved by the nation.

“To maintain momentum, particularly over the cooler months, our ‘The People’s Pie’ multichannel campaign returns in October, with a new creative for TV and radio celebrating how people can pick and mix their favourite recipes, meaning no-one needs to compromise.

“Last year’s award-winning campaign14 boosted sales and solidified our position as the nation’s favourite pie brand with 18.4% value share, and we’re now in one in five UK households15. It is therefore key that we continue to invest in our brand to propel its growth even further and keep driving the relevancy of Pukka for everyone.”

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