The pastry dilemma as Brits shun pasties and pies in 2023

Cash-strapped shoppers have put down pasties and shunned sausage rolls

Cash-strapped shoppers have put down pasties and shunned sausage rolls. As prices have risen by an average of 12.7%, volume sales of savoury pastries have fallen 3.2%.

Both brands and own label have suffered declines, shifting 7.6 million fewer kilos between them. That’s the equivalent of 33.4 million Cornish pasties.

“Increased production costs from logistics, labour and raw ingredients have had a big impact on suppliers, which in turn has driven price increases,” sums up Lisa Rees, NIQ retailer services team leader. “Strong value growth has come at the expense of decreasing volume.”

A prime example is market leader Ginsters. It’s 25.9% costlier than last year, and is one of five top 10 brands to have lost volumes, with a dip of 14.5%.

Ginsters marketing director Emma Stowers accepts some shoppers have left the category due to higher prices. Disappointing summer weather didn’t help sales either, she adds. A wet and cool season took its toll on products such as quiches, pork pies and slices, which typically get a boost from picnicking.

Ginsters launching trend-driven lines

Stowers also points to production issues during 2022. Work on several manufacturing lines in the fourth quarter resulted in a reduced output. “This led to a position at the start of the year where we had to reclaim the penetration and sales that were effectively lost,” she says.

To claw back those lost sales, Ginsters has been working hard. The brand has launched on-trend lines such as BBQ Hunters Chicken Slice, Smoky Beef Chilli Pasty and Mexican Bean Bake, and given itself a makeover. New packaging hit supermarket shelves in September, backed by a £4m marketing campaign the following month.

“Our new design communicates quality and Ginsters’ Cornish provenance, and has been proven to help shoppers find the brand and better navigate the range at shelf,” Stowers explains.

In these tough times, it helps that Ginsters is the market leader. The brand can leverage economies of sourcing and scale and its strong distribution network, points out Rees. This allows it to land a wider, more eclectic portfolio into supermarkets and c-stores.

The same can be said for major rivals Pukka and Wall’s. “Most top brands have diversified into a wider range of product types including pizza, pies, slices and sausage rolls, and this has also helped with perception, production economies and distribution deals,” Rees says.

Pukka is certainly feeling the benefits of its clout. Volumes have risen 3.8% and value is up £12.5m. That’s the largest absolute gain in the top 30. Like Ginsters, Pukka has been busy with innovation. Retail launches in the past year have included Pepperoni Pizza Pie, Doner Kebab Pie, All Day Breakfast Slice and Chip Shop Chicken Curry Pie.

These new lines are designed to broaden the appeal of savoury pastries and attract more young shoppers. “Understanding the habits of pie shoppers is quite complex, and nobody is going to know how to navigate this better than branded players,” says Pukka MD Isaac Fisher.

“We’ve worked hard to segment our portfolio so that we have sub-ranges that specifically target the different shoppers who buy pies,” he adds.

Reformulated Wall’s recipe

The brand has also maintained a steady pipeline of altruistic marketing activity, such as its Pukka Athletic initiative, which supports grassroots football. This year, it has joined forces with Christmas hit maker LadBaby on a limited-edition Christmas Dinner Pie, which will raise money for The Trussell Trust.

For third-placed brand Wall’s, the onus has been on honing its existing lines. In June, the brand undertook a major relaunch of its sausage roll offer, described as the biggest in its history.

A reformulated sausage recipe – made with premium cuts of pork shoulder and pork belly – was the result of a year’s consumer testing and research. Packaging was given a “vibrant” redesign to boost on-shelf visibility. The relaunch was also supported by a “significant” push, including social media, print and sampling.

Wall’s ends the year up 25.6% in value on volumes up 15.5%. That’s been enough to usurp Higgidy as the third-largest savoury pastry brand. Especially as Higgidy is struggling: it’s suffered a 14% drop in value and 24% drop in volumes.

Its losses are down to being an unashamedly posh brand in chilled, says Rees at NIQ. “Higgidy has maintained its more premium price position and has struggled against own label and more mainstream brands as tightening of household budgets continues.”

ginsters scarecrow

With a budget of £4m, the ‘Taste the effort’ campaign for Ginsters was described as its “biggest and most ambitious spend to date”. The ad, which made its TV debut in October, highlighted the “high-quality British and local ingredients that go into all Ginsters’ products”. It told the story of Cornish farmer Merryn, who goes “above and beyond with the effort she puts into growing the highest-quality vegetables” for the brand’s pasties.

Still, Higgidy’s debut in the typically cheaper frozen aisle suggests the brand isn’t oblivious to shoppers’ budgeting concerns. The four-strong range also taps demand for pies and quiches that are affordable alternatives to eating in pubs and cafés.

Pork Farms is similarly looking to tap that out of home-style with the launch of a limited-edition Hog Roast & Apple Pork Pie. The Compleat brand is up 7.4% in volumes, aided by a digital push to hammer home its 100% British pork credentials. By targeting YouTube and Facebook users, the video reached nearly six million consumers.

Its stablemate Wrights is also on the up, having rolled a Chicken Balti Pie into Tesco this year – the first pie to be sold in a major retailer under the Wrights brand.

The line has performed exceptionally well, claims Jason Manley, brand director at Compleat, which acquired Wrights Food Group in December 2021.

Wrights Food Group’s further retail launches

“Wrights is already a major supplier into foodservice, and we hope to be able to build on the success of the brand with further launches into retail,” he says.

This could mean shoppers will soon be able to snap up the brand’s Chicken Tikka Pasty, Peppered Steak Slice or Steak & Kidney Pie.

It might also see Wrights merchandised alongside pastries by Bells. The Lanarkshire brand dominates Scotland’s savoury pastries market, claiming a 60% share. It’s now looking to the rest of the UK.

Bells commercial director Gordon Smith says there is “real potential” to grow the brand outside Scotland. “Where stocked in England, rate of sale is high and significant value is being added to the retailer category. We hope to see our products on more shelves the length and breadth of the country over the coming year.”

Maybe Brits will soon once again say yes to pasties and pies.

Top Launch 2023

Higgidy frozen range | Samworth Brothers

Higgidy frozen NPD Sept 2023  2100x1400

Since its debut in 2003, Higgidy has built a strong presence in the chillers with its posh savoury pastries. In September this year, the brand made a landmark leap into frozen. Four pie and quiche SKUs landed in Waitrose – each in a two-pack. The lineup comprises Roasted Pepper & Basil Quiche (rsp: £5), Chicken & Creamy Leek Pie, British Steak Pie, and Roasted Butternut Squash & Feta Pie (rsp: £5.95). Early signs suggest the new lines are proving popular with consumers, says Higgidy.

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