Despite a noted rise in clean eating trends, the hearty hot pie market grew 1.7% year-on-year in 2018. Keen for a larger slice of the action, Pukka's marketing buck is being dedicated to position it as family-friendly and attractive for a younger audience.
This week it launched its biggest-ever marketing campaign with a new strapline, 'The People's Pie' - the first work by its newly-instated ad agency, Walker. The spot features everyday folk extolling their love of pies. The film captures Rothley Fisheries owner and Pukka stockist Andreas Agathangelou flipping fish and bakers performing their craft in Pukka's bakery in Syston.
“Why I wanted to go with ‘The People’s Pie’ is it's just simple, honest and really what Pukka as a brand stands for,” explains Rachel Cranston, Pukka's new chief marketing officer. “What I love about working for Pukka is it’s a real fabric of the nation brand.”
Following a rebrand in 2017 that saw the pie maker shake off its connotations with football and chips shops, Pukka is venturing forward with its mission to be a more family-oriented brand.
Charting the pie
The 56-year-old family-owned pie maker from Leicestershire claims to be the UK's number one hot pie brand, over pasty-topped rivals Pieminster and Higgidy. What began as a Fish and Chip shop residency, has now expanded to include stadiums, butchers, cafes and pubs across the country, with 55% of business hailing from retail.
The factory in Syston, Leicestershire now produces 180,000 pies and pastries each day. Earlier this year, the factory was awarded a blue plaque for Trevor Storer - the baker and entrepreneur behind the family-owned business. True to its family roots, there is a pastiche of Pierre-Auguste Renoir's 1875 painting 'Luncheon of the Boating Party' where the figures are substituted by members of the Storer family, hung in the factory reception.
While more health-conscious millennials head for quinoa and smashed avocado, clean eating trends might have unsettled the pie market. Rather, the hot pie category itself is in gross at 1.7% year-on-year, with Mintel estimating that the total pie market is worth £1.2bn - up £200m from 2010.
A large part of the growth is down to the emergence of more premium pie brands, like Pieminister and Higgidy. Eager not to miss out on the bougie pie market, in 2017 Pukka launched a premium range that consisted of a chicken, leek and pancetta pie and a steak and porter ale pie.
The hot pie category is estimated to be worth £244m, with Pukka picking up a 15% share at £36m. Including food services, which is 45% of Pukka's business, in 2018 the hot pie maker brought in £49.3m, which was up from £45.8m the year before.
In regards to competition, Cranston claimed that Pukka "is a way ahead in terms of an awareness perspective but also a value share perspective."
In comparison, Pieminster's saw sales grew 14% to £14.3m in 2018 from £12.6m the year before, while the handmade pie and quiche brand Higgidy revealed a turnover of £25.2m earlier this year - up from £23.8m 12 months prior.
After admitting that it has not given enough attention to its marketing efforts, in 2017, with a mission to get past connotations with Fish and Chip shops and football fans, Pukka enlisted the PR help of Kazoo Communications and Quiet Storm to give it a rebrand.
As part of the rebrand, its recipes were updated, is packaging brightened, and a new brand positioning was instated, aimed at convincing mums to consider the brand for family meals. Under the strapline 'Everything's Pukka,' the £8m upgrade entered Pukka into the premium pie market. During its partnership with Kazoo, it saw its sales go up more than 24%.
Following on from this success, over the past year, Pukka has gone through a marketing revamp. In February, Cranston joined as head of marketing. Equipped with a firm knowledge on how to sell FMCG, Cranston has done various stints at food companies. She joined Pukka after seven years at Alpro. Prior to that, she spent nine years at Kraft Foods.
After Cranston joined in November, she made it her mission to restructure Pukka's agency partnerships, to figure out whether Pukka was with the right agencies, and if not what the best agencies were moving forward.
"As we grow there are different needs from agencies and different objectives. You stretch yourselves in different ways and the needs in the agencies and their capabilities differ," explained Cranston.
After a pitch process ordained by Creativebrief, Pukka began an agency roster review covering PR and social, strategy and creative and shopper agencies.
Walker was chosen as its lead ad agency, while Richmond and Towers picked up the PR account from Kazoo. From a shopper marketing agency, which includes food services and trade to help it work with Fish and Chip shops, Pukka appointed Haygarth.