Gourmet pie maker Pieminister is anticipating a turnover increase of 40% to around £7m this financial year.
This compares with a £5m turnover in the year to March 2010, and reflects increased consumer demand for premium pies - a sector growing at around 3% per year.
The Bristol-based company employs around 130 summer staff and produces approximately 60,000 pies a week at its 15,000 sq ft facility, with increased output and staffing during the busier autumn-winter period.
Founded in 2002, Pieminister sells pies through 15 of its own market stalls and five company-owned shops, as well as to wholesalers and online customers. With 20% of sales now made to major multiples, it also has national listings in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose and regional listings in Tesco and Asda.
Pieminister co-director and founder Jonathan Simon told FoodManufacture.co.uk that high quality products are hard to mass produce: “Big manufacturers are struggling to break into premium pies because the manufacturing processes are not easily replicated on a mass scale.”
“For instance, they tend to use ‘relaxants’ – where the mixture is added to a machine at one end – and the whole process is automated.”
This is the antithesis of Pieminister’s approach, he explained: “Although the food science behind our pies is complex, it’s fair to say that the technology is fairly low-tech: in regard to making pastry and fillings everything we do is done by hand.”
He added that the firm would not cut costs to benefit margins, but would instead pursue efficiency gains and improved sourcing arrangements to better its market position.
“We try wherever possible to use locally-sourced meat and seasonally available ingredients. So, for instance, when asparagus is in season locally then we’ll use it in our pies.
“Improvements in sourcing also make it possible for us to visit our suppliers and ensure the quality and provenance of ingredients.”
Simon also said that despite growing shelf space in major multiples the firm would not neglect its roots:
“We’re pursuing a mixed approach to growth really, but we’re not ignoring the independent sector and it’s fair to say that our more exotic pies still go to delicatessens.”
Pieminister’s pie range includes handmade Thai green curry with chicken and potato and British beef steak with red wine and stilton.