The pie empire strikes back...

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Makers of pies and pastries have slammed the media for unfairly demonising their products as 'unhealthy', and have vowed to launch a counter-offensive in a bid to transform public perception.

Neil Court-Johnston, md of Peter's Pies, said the sector was still reeling from Jamie Oliver's 2005 school dinners campaign, which had hit pies unreasonably. Although overall sales for Peter's were growing, it and others had lost "a chunk of education business"​, despite having laboured to make pies healthier.

"People are frustrated about the industry's reactive approach," ​he said, although manufacturers were creating top quality products to overturn public opinion. Fast food and many sandwiches contained more calories than pies, he added.

"I'd like to lead a public debate. The immediate spur for this was a debate with the local education authority (LEA) in Cardiff. We had a positive exchange, securing supply for schools across Cardiff."​ But, UK LEAs had "a patchwork quilt of opinions" ​without consistency. He criticised poor quality school meals and argued that putting high quality pies on menus would improve things.

Martyn Thomas, md of Oliver James Foods, which makes Proper Pies, called pies a "much maligned category"​. "Product engineering has driven down quality," ​he acknowledged. "You can get poor filling enrobed in a disproportionate amount of pastry."​ However, he said: "If manufactured using high-quality techniques, products can be good quality and not unhealthy."

Neville Caruthers, Wright's Pies operations manager, said processors had "done a lot to take salt and fat out of products", ​even investing in new processing kit.

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