Savoury pastries could easily have been a sitting duck for anyone looking to point a finger in the obesity debate. But remarkably, other than the British Heart Foundation's 'Fear the pie' advertising campaign, the market seems to have emerged pretty much unscathed. ACNielsen values the retail savoury pastries market at around £307m and growing by 6% year-on-year -- figures that are hardly redolent of an ailing sector.
Perhaps this is down to the fact that unlike breakfast cereals and fruit juice, pasties and pies have never purported to be healthy. Just think of the Fray Bentos men. As Andy Watts, marketing director at Bernard Matthews, says: "People who buy sausage rolls do so because they love the taste rather than buying on a health platform."
That said, there are now players in the market that are addressing the health issue via reduced calorie introductions.
Last September, market leader Ginsters launched its Deli Bake range, a filled olive oil pastry that contains 350 calories and 40% less saturated fat than comparable pastry products. Deli Bake is available in four flavours: Chicken & bacon in a cream & herb sauce, Chicken & mushroom in a cream sauce, Pepper steak with cheese, and Mozzarella cheese salsa, each at retail price of £1.69.
"This is a mainstream offering that addresses the ongoing health issues without being positioned as a diet product," explains Peter Judge, sales and marketing director at Ginsters.
In January, Anthony Alan Foods introduced four savoury pastries under the Weight Watchers brand: Sausage roll, Pork & apple roll, Cheese & onion slice and Chicken & stuffing slice.
"These are our first savoury products for Weight Watchers," says Sarah Morgan, marketing manager at Anthony Alan. "The new Weight Watchers savouries are high-taste, premium, no-compromise products, as good as any on the market but with significantly reduced saturated fat and fewer calories."
The sausage roll contains 2.7g of saturated fat and 165 calories, which Anthony Alan says is achieved by using lean pork sausage.
Ingredient supplier BakeMark UK offers another way of improving the nutritional profile of savoury pastries. Its Castle Non Hydro and Apollo Non Hydro bakery fats made with non hydrogenated blends of vegetable oil allow food manufacturers to develop baked goods containing lower levels of trans fatty acids (TFAs). Cutting TFA consumption is thought to contribute to reduced cholesterol levels and improved cardiovascular health and a reduction programme has been ongoing in other sectors of the industry for some years.
The bakery industry supplier is also exploring options for bread bases as a healthier alternative to pastry for its frozen bakery products. This has resulted in the launch a hot dog baguette -- a sausage containing 80% meat on a bed of onions and ketchup, encased in a freshly baked French baguette. The baguettes are individually wrapped and can be baked off from frozen in a matter of minutes.
But not all new product developments hinge on health. BakeMark's Petits Crolines are miniature savoury pastries that are baked off in 15 minutes. The range includes Pizza with ham, Roquefort cheese, Chicken curry, Beef taco, as well as vegetarian and seafood varieties. Head of marketing Kerrie Hampson says they fit in with the current trend towards bite-sized products for impulse purchase and snacking opportunities.
Bernard Matthews too has recognised the potential for new product formats that target different occasions. A relative newcomer to the savoury pastries market, Bernard Matthews came on the scene with its cheese and ham, and chicken, cheese and leek sauce slices at the end of 2003. Already it has secured listings in the major multiples for its slices, rolls and lattices, with the most recent introductions being its egg and bacon and cheese and broccoli slices.
Watts says the cheese and broccoli slice is aimed primarily at vegetarians, who have previously only really been offered cheese and onion. As well as being a new flavour combination, the egg and bacon slice is positioned as a brunch snack. "Our intention was to appeal to a wider variety of people and usage occasions. People consume pastry products throughout the day, from brunch right through to late at night," he says.
According to ACNielsen Scantrack, the slices market is worth £82.5m and growing at 14% year-on-year, making it the fastest growing sector. Watts reckons the reason is that consumers are turning away from traditional pasties in favour of slices and lattices. As a result, although pasties still command the largest share of the market, sales are declining by 2.8% year-on-year. "There has been an enormous amount of BOGOF (buy one, get one free) activity which won't take pasties forward in the long-term," he warns.
Sales of chilled, pre-packed pasties may be dwindling, but according to Morris Pasties, the consumer's appetite for premium, handmade pasties is heartier than ever.
Morris Pasties started life as a family butcher in 1970. To cope with rising demand for its pasties it opened a dedicated pasty outlet 10 years ago. Now it operates via five family-owned retail outlets in Cornwall and a rapidly growing franchise network. It manufactures a range of pasties, from steak and stilton to lamb and mint and traditional Cornish pasties.
The pasties, which are made from traditional shortcrust pastry, are assembled and crimped by hand, glazed with milk and frozen. The traditional beef pasties are created from premium quality steak from Morris's own butchers outlets. Fresh vegetables and cheese are sourced from local farmers and established suppliers.
Morris has recently recruited a Michelin starred-chef to drive development in new fillings. Such creations as vegetable and goats cheese, Mediterranean vegetable and spicy chicken will be rolled out across the out-of-county outlets in coming months.
At between £2.00-3.00 each, the pasties aren't cheap. But Morris says the price is on par with what most people are prepared to pay for lunch in the likes of McDonald's and Pret A Manger. "We're not interested in the commodity market," says Morris's Steve Cadwillader. "People will always pay for quality and will always come back for it."
It's a philosophy that is shared by Pukka Pies. The company manufactures about a dozen different types of puff pastry pies and pasties in fresh baked, frozen baked and frozen unbaked formats for retailers, bakers and fast food outlets.
As well as using high quality ingredients, Pukka Pies employs a team of on-site butchers to trim and prepare the meat. "From our own market research we know that a lot of negatives about meat pies are around the issue of what's inside them," says Peter Mayes, marketing and business development controller.
"The driving force is producing a good quality product on a consistent basis. A lot of companies are moving to just-in-time principles. We're not -- we hold stock because it's more important to us not to let customers down than to save a few thousands of pounds on not having packaging on site. We also refuse to price promote our products. In the nicest possible way, if consumers only want to buy our products on a deal, they're not the kind of consumers we want."
It's a strategy that's paying dividends; Pukka Pies is currently experiencing year-on-year sales growth of 10%.
Flavours like steak and kidney, chicken and mushroom, minced beef and onion -- all fairly traditional -- are Pukka Pie's top performers, which is why the company is focusing its efforts on building its brand in the convenience sector, rather than developing new flavours. "Within our market, people's tastes are relatively conservative," says Mayes. "We see food-on-the-move as a major future trend and are looking at making our hot pies available to consumers on-the-go via forecourts and convenience outlets as well as the takeaway and bakery sectors."
Savoury pasties are fast becoming available at every conceivable eating opportunity. At this rate it won't be long before people are picking up a pasty for breakfast. FM
Origin: Evidence of bee keeping goes back 7,000 years. The Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks and Romans all used honey in food and for treating wounds, burns and internal disorders. It is thought the term 'honeymoon' comes from an ancient Persian tradition of newly-weds drinking glasses of honey and water daily for a month to ensure a bountiful future. Monks used honey in the middle ages largely for the production of mead and European settlers took European bees to New England in 1638.
Nutritional properties: Honey consists mainly of water, fructose, glucose, sucrose, minerals and pollen grains. It has antibacterial and energy recovery properties. More recently, Edinburgh pharmacist and sports nutritionist Mike McInnes has claimed eating honey before going to bed can help people lose weight. He believes honey encourages fat-fuelled hormones to rebuild body muscle and skin cells while you sleep! Something you shouldn't do is give honey to babies below 12 months, as it can cause infant botulism.
Production: The average bee produces less than a teaspoon of honey in a lifetime -- so meeting annual UK consumption of 25,000t takes a lot of bees. China is the largest producer, followed by the US, Argentina and Ukraine. Production involves pasteurisation to inactivate yeast cells, straining and filtration, followed by cooling ... and it's a sticky business.
Culinary use: Its taste and colour varies depending on local flora -- common varieties are apple, heather, acacia or eucalyptus from down under. Exotic newcomers include Borneo Giant Bee and Viet Nam Jungle variants. Honey helps keep products moist, enhances cooked meat flavours and contributes to Maillard browning. Used widely in cereals, snacks, dairy products, dressings and marinades, more recent innovations are: carrot juice with honey and lemon from Amecke Fruchtsaft of Germany; honey roast duckling from Silver Hill Foods; and in the relaunch of the malt whisky, cream and honey liqueur -- Columba Cream -- marketed by the Scottish Liqueur Centre.