Rewind a decade and Higgidy’s three founders had a finger in every pie. They dreamed up recipes, bought ingredients, baked pies in small batches at a tiny kitchen in Southwick and packed and delivered to clients.

It wasn’t to last. Four years in, turnover hit £800,000 and the trio scored a lucrative listing in Sainsbury’s of their first branded pies, having previously supplied own label to delis, specialists and foodservice.

It was time to move the team of 25 to bigger digs a mile down the road in Shoreham-by-Sea - the first change of many as the Sussex supplier grew from charming seaside start-up to an fmcg brand with £21.5m turnover, 12 straight years of double-digit growth and 250 staff.

So through it all, have the trio, made up of husband and wife Camilla Stephens and James Foottit, and MD Mark Campbell, ever struggled to relinquish all that control they once enjoyed?

“Relinquishing control brings some benefits,” insists Stephens. “When we first started you’d have to wear all sorts of hats and be uncomfortable because you’re not necessarily doing the thing you’re good at, you’re doing the thing that has to happen.”

The “key bit is knowing at which point it’s right for us to stop doing it quite well and get someone in to do it really well,” Campbell adds. “We’ve been quite deliberate at each moment when we’ve let go of different functions of the business.”


The first big hire was a head of operations in 2011, before which “whether it was sales with supermarkets, finance or NPD we were literally doing almost every detail,” says Campbell. Then came a head of commercial in 2012. That was “frightening” he admits.

“Until that point we’d done so well by going in to retailers and playing the entrepreneur card,” he says. “But then there’s a part of you saying we need to grow beyond that and do this in a professional way.”

An HR and product development team followed (in 2013 and 2014 respectively) before most recently the appointment of Oliver Rudgard (former marketing director at Tyrrells) to head of brand in September 2015 to ensure brand now “leads the business”.

Through it all, the pies haven’t lost their homemade USP, insists Stephens, even if 300,000 are now produced each week at the 30,000 sq ft facility (15 times bigger than the poky kitchen in which they first began).

“We make from scratch, that hasn’t changed at all,” she says pointing to a steaming spinach, feta and toasted pine nut pie. “The seeded pastry on that pie is exactly the same as the first batch in my kitchen. The peppers, pine nuts and feta were all put on by hand and the heart was cut out by hand, placed and glazed.

“In terms of the ingredients we’ve got better,” she adds. “We understand more about how flour performs, and what we need from it and as we’re that little bit bigger when we know what sort of feta cheese we’re looking for we’re able to go after really good quality.

“The tension when we scale up is having to work out when would a machine do something better than a person,” she admits. “And that’s the conversation that’s always going on.”

The team has its reservations about all this unimpeded growth though, which gave them pause for thought as they set a new target of £60m turnover within the next five years.

“We like to set a challenge but the danger is we could lose what made us special in the first place by aiming for that without a set of guidelines,” explains Campbell.

“When we were small you didn’t have to say what was important because we saw each other every day but as we get bigger and more people join the business it felt like we needed to be clear and articulate what we’re about and the values we work to.”

The result was a company-wide exercise (“from the washer upper to the person who drives the van”) to boil down what makes Higgidy tick. They came up with the three-step “Higgidy way” (Be brave, be kind and be smart) underpinned by the ethos “putting the heart in food and the soul in business.”

“In a nutshell that’s what we exist for,” says Campbell. “We have to do business in a different way that’s about more than the bottom line. You need to make a profit to exist, but you shouldn’t just exist to make a profit.”


With that cleared up, Higgidy is focusing on what it does best: growth. The first step is achieving 22% in additional sales next year by encouraging more Brits a single pie is worth £3.70 (compared with £1 for many supermarket own label alternatives).

Consumers swapping eating out for fancy food at home has helped, says Stephens, a trend the brand looked to tap into with its recent Higgidy Sofa Suppers marketing campaign, featuring celebs well acquainted with their couch, Gogglebox’s Chris and Stephen.

“We’ve got quite a Telegraph/Times customer and we wanted to have a wider reach,” Stephens explains. “The pair are local to us; they’re really fun, well known, and reach a slightly different audience as the story was going to be picked up by the Express and the Mirror.”

There’s a “great opportunity” in food to go as well, to catch people bored of sandwiches, adds Campbell, who predicts their lunchtime tie-up with Boots, which began with small single quiches in 2010, will double in turnover this year after sausage rolls and savoury slices were added to the mix.

And the team are looking horizontally too by throwing around ideas for movement into adjacent categories. “We could move into desserts for example,” says Campbell.

We can expect a Higgidy apple pie sometime soon then?

“Well that’s an example, not an exact plan,” he clarifies. “Although we get letters and emails every day asking why we don’t do one.”

Pies and quiches will remain Higgidy’s bread and butter though. A Steak Ragu Pie with Crispy Potatoes launched in September, and a Christmas pie will be available over the festive period. And as I leave, Stephens has a meeting to test summer flavours for 2016. “Now that’s something different from the early days,” laughs Campbell. “It used to be we’d think ‘oh it’s getting warmer, we should think of a summer pie’.”

Proof of just how much growing up the Higgidy brand has had to do.


Name: Camilla Stephens

Job: Chief pie maker

Age: 45

Born: Birmingham

Family: Married to co-founder James, two kids

Pre-Higgidy cv: Leiths, Good Housekeeping, Seattle Coffee Co, Starbucks

Best career decision: Leaving school early to pursue my passion

Worst career decision: Not buying the next door building and paying twice the price two years later

Career highlight: Our first listing in Sainsbury’s

Best piece of advice: Put all your eggs in one basket - and guard it with your life


Name: Mark Campbell

Job: Managing director

Age: 36

Born: Norway

Family: Married, two kids

Pre-Higgidy cv: Architecture, relief work in Afghanistan and Africa

Best career decision: Managing relief projects in post-9/11 Afghanistan - I had to learn fast

Worst career decision: A job as an architectural assistant detailing drainpipes. It wasn’t me

Career highlight: Seeing the Higgidy team grow to more than 250 people

Best piece of advice: Confront the brutal facts - problems rarely fix themselves