Sales at the Baxenden-based company have dropped by some 10% to 15% over the past five years, but Court-Johnston hopes to tap into a growing market for traditional English fare.
“The UK pie and pasty market is growing strongly and the popularity of British cooking and ‘proper’ food is rising steadily,” said Court-Johnston, who first discovered Holland’s Pies while growing up in the northwest, where they are most popular.
“It is my remit to unlock the true potential of this company, create a strength-based culture and improve our overall performance,” he said. “I intend to create a strong, profitable and secure business, which can capitalise on the strength of its brand and the quality of its products to exploit current market opportunities.”
Improving the presence of Holland’s Pies in chip shops, which has fallen in recent years, would breathe new life into the company, he said.
Holland’s Pies, which is part of Northern Foods, produces about 80 million chilled and frozen pies and pastry products a year, with a turnover of £40m. It has a 60% share of the market in the northwest, where 92% of people know the brand. And its Sportsman’s Pie –50% bigger than a normal pie – is sold in sports stadia including Old Trafford.
Court-Johnston joined Northern Foods in 2005 as group customer director, having previously been customer director at Nestlé for three years. He was commercial director at pie and pasty producer Pork Farms, which Northern Foods sold to a private equity group in January 2007, and was most recently Northern Foods’ commercial director of grocery ready meals.