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Pies as Popular as ever

Holland’s Pies, one of Britain’s oldest and best-loved pie companies, is supporting Asda boss Andy Bond in his attack on celebrity chefs for being out-of-touch with cash-strapped UK families.

As the recession bites hard, Neil Court-Johnston, Managing Director of Holland’s Pies, insists the focus must shift to quality, service and value-for-money instead of short-lived, expensive food fads as families confront soaring grocery bills.

In his recent article for The Grocer, Andy Bond, Chief Executive of Asda, labelled the approach taken by celebrity chefs including Jamie Oliver, Heston Blumenthal and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as “past its sell-by date,”  with the average family £4 a week worse off than a year ago.

Now, Court-Johnston said he was determined to smash misconceptions over pie quality and health, pointing out that the unique way Holland’s pies are cooked means they have fewer calories than a typical supermarket cheese sandwich.

He said: “For too long now, the pie has been regarded as the bogeyman of the British diet and is constantly dismissed by celebrity chefs, who chose to ignore that our pies are enjoyed by millions of people today.

“The reason our company has survived for almost 160 years is that we give people what they want and that is high-quality pies, made with the finest ingredients and cooked in a traditional way in our craft bakery, all at reasonable prices. Our customers come back to us time after time because they know we give them traditional British food at its very best.

“While quails’ eggs and incredibly expensive chickens might be what these celebrity chefs recommend on our dinner plates, that is out-of-reach for most British families. Our success, producing more than 80 million chilled and frozen pies, pasties and puddings every year with annual sales of £40 million, also challenges the assertion that celebrity chefs know best.

“We know we’ve got something special here. Our way of doing things has won the hearts of pie-eaters for generations and is enjoyed by millions of people today. That’s why we stick to what we’re good at, with our secret recipes and cooking methods, our prime cuts of meat and our specially-blended pastry.”

As the food industry faces tough times, Holland’s Pies is bucking the trend, with Court-Johnston actually predicting further growth this year.

He said: ““Of course, 2009 will be tough for the food industry but pies are a staple favourite that consumers have come to rely on for a great many years. In the last recession, pies performed well , because a proper pie or pudding is substantial, familiar and nutritious. Better still, a pie or pudding meal provides fantastic value for money. It’s not a surprise to see that Pies feature in the top 5 selling dishes of the latest Publican Food report – confirming demand is high out of home as well as in home.

“Our business is growing and our focus will remain firmly on improving our quality, value and service. Put simply, that means working harder to have the right products, at the right price in the right place.

 Holland’s employs more than 400 people at its Lancashire base and is part of the chilled division of Northern Foods. The company enjoys a 60 per cent share of the market across all channels in the North West, an area where 92 per cent of people have heard of Holland’s Pies.

Holland's was first established in 1851 and produces more than 80m chilled and frozen pies, pasties and puddings ever year, with annual sales of £40m. It is the first choice in sports stadia, retail outlets, food services and chip shops all over the North West.

Its closely-guarded recipes are used in a product range including meat and potato pie, meat pie, chicken and mushroom pie, cheese and onion pie and steak and kidney pies and puddings, enjoyed by one in every two households in the North West every year.

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