Consumers opt for familiar flavors, such as apple and pumpkin, as well as high quality, gourmet choices.
The very first pie recipe, created by the Romans, reportedly consisted of rye-crusted goat cheese and honey. Pie manufacturers have come a long way since then in the quality of flavors and ingredients and the variety of options available to consumers. Today, many wholesale pie companies offer 50 or more flavors. It's no wonder consumers are divided about their favorite pie flavors.
In March, Schwan's Consumer Brands North America Inc. conducted its 2008 “Pie Slice of Life” survey to poll American pie preferences. Consumers overwhelmingly rated apple pie as their favorite with 47 percent of the vote going to traditional apple and 25 percent to apple crumb. Pumpkin came in second with 37 percent of the vote, while third and fourth place went to chocolate créme and cherry, respectively.
While this survey shows Americans still gravitate toward traditional favorites, unique flavors are gaining attention as well.
“Apple pie is overwhelmingly the favorite across the nation, while flavors, such as key lime and peach, have a huge following in southern states,” says Travis Bautz, vice president, product strategy, Schwan Food Co., Bloomington, Minn. “Historically, key lime pie has been a popular flavor primarily in the Southeast.” Schwan's Edward's brand won a blue ribbon for its key lime pie at the 2008 American Pie Championships held last month in Orlando. The key lime flavor is so popular that in 2006, Florida adopted key lime pie as its state pie.
Southern-inspired flavors may be the next step for exotic pie flavors. Akron, Ohio-based Gardner Pie Co.'s South of the Border line includes habanero peach pie, jalapeño apple pie and cherry lime chipotle pie. The South of the Border pies open the company to new demographic and marketing options in connection with holidays, such as Cinco de Mayo, says Kevin Hickernell, director of sales.
Aside from both new and traditional flavors, consumers are looking for high quality pies. The days of cheaply made pies are gone, and instead, consumers demand upscale pie options, Hickernell says.
Along with upscale pies comes upscale packaging. Sara Lee offers a line of gourmet crème de la crème and layer pies for in-store bakeries that ship in glossy, epoxy-coated black-bottom tins, to create a more upscale, premium appearance with one-third less packaging than traditional clamshells.
While pie sales overall were down slightly for the 52 weeks ended March 23, manufacturers are attracting consumers by focusing on upscale-appeal, and making pies with high quality ingredients. Studies show consumers buy pies especially when they want to treat themselves, and look for visually appealing pies, with chunks of real fruit and attractive toppings.
“Comfort foods continue to be very ‘on-trend’ with consumers, and pie is the original comfort food,” Bautz says. “That being said, people across the country are becoming familiar with more flavors.”
Consumers also are becoming familiar with a large variety of size options. Manufacturers continue to sell half pies and slices, in addition to whole pies, for consumers conscientious about portion control. Although 8-in. pies were popular in years past, 9-in. pies now are the most popular size for gourmet and cream pies and represented more than 66 percent and 22 percent of sales in their respective segments last year, according to Sara Lee. The dollar-sales growth of cream pies is outpacing the total in-store bakery category 6 percent to 0.2 percent.
|BRANDS||52-week dollar sales||% change prior year||Dollar share||52-week unit sales||% change prior year||Unit share|
|MRS. SMITH'S TRADITIONAL RECIPE||49,836,680||-11.5||13.8||15,714,620||-14.6||17.0|
|SARA LEE SIGNATURE SELECTIONS||24,106,200||64.7||6.7||4,685,662||64.2 5.1|
|MRS. SMITH'S SPECIAL RECIPE||16,445,740||-34.8||4.6||2,862,756||-40.1||3.1|
|MRS. SMITH'S SODA SHOPPE||13,106,000||7.1||3.6||3,151,051||12.4||3.4|
|WEIGHT WATCHERS SMART ONES||7,561,424||26.3||2.1||3,386,040||26.5||3.7|
|Source: Information Resources Inc. statistics for the 52-week period ended March 23, 2008.|
|Fresh Bakery Products||52 Weeks Ending March 23 Dollar Sales||% Change Prior Year||52 Weeks Ending March 23 Unit Sales||% Change Prior Year|
|Pies (excl Snack Pies)||202,509,400||-8.3||45,698,000||-11.9|
|Cakes (excl snack/coffee)||53,687,260||-3.6||131,510,200||-5.9|
|Frozen Bakery Products|
|Sweetgoods (excl cheesecakes)||4,601,224||69.6||1,821,936||52.7|
|Refrigerated Bakery Products|
|Cakes (excl Snack/Coffee)||70,337,570||0.9||9,304,664||4.2|
|Pies (excl Snack Pies)||24,460,730||-11.4||4,617,211||-14.1|
|ADG April 16, 2008|