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Demand for the great British pie soaring again after 30 years

25th January 2010 Print

The humble pie, one of Britain’s greatest culinary inventions, is making a major comeback with sales at a 30 year high.

Since the early 80s demand for hot pies has been flat after American style fast food such as burgers, fried chicken and pizzas took their place in UK diner’s hearts and because of healthy eating trends.

But now because of far better ingredients pies have not only returned to dinner tables but also feature on the menus of gastro pubs and upmarket restaurants.

In the last two years sales across all UK retailers have soared by 16 per cent (AC Nielsen data) which equates to 17 million pies – a big jump considering it is a mature market. The total UK pie market across all retailers is currently worth £229 million.

Said Tesco pie buyer Andrew Mossop: “Pies have won their way back into the hearts of British diners and gained a new respectability because of better ingredients, wider choices and healthier options.

“The tough, fatty beef or chicken in unappetising, gloopy gravy has gone and has been replaced by far better quality tender meat, finer vegetables and sauces and more delicate pastry.

“While they were once thought of as merely a snack they are now being eaten as part of a balanced core meal alongside vegetables such as carrots, broccoli or potatoes.

“Our own sales are at a 30 year high and have grown by 36 per cent in the last two years.”

The pie revival has been helped by them appearing on the menus of top restaurants and they are also standard fare at gastro pubs across the UK.

Traditionally the three main British savoury pies were steak and kidney, beef and onion, and chicken and mushroom.

Now there are countless varieties to choose from including steak and ale, chicken and bacon, Aberdeen Angus minced steak, chicken and Wiltshire ham, lamb and mint and vegetarian options.

Pie making expert Susie Wallis who oversees the production of all of Tesco’s own label pies spent several months last year working with top butchers and chefs in order to enhance the meat, gravy and pastry content.

Said Susie Wallis: “We not only select the best cuts of meat but also use the same cooking techniques that people use at home ensuring it is gently cooked allowing it to slowly release its flavour and to remain tender.

“After that we add fresh stocks and continue to slowly cook it in order to ensure that the gravy is rich in flavour and glossy in colour.

“But equally as important as the content is the casing and we have developed different pastries for different pies. So, for example, steak pies the pastry is butter enriched as we believe this better compliments the meat and gravy.”

Another indicator of the hot pie revival is that sales are strong throughout the year instead of just in the traditional winter months as before.