The rise of fresh pie has led to an
explosion of flavors and styles,
creating an inviting new option
for consumers who usually turn
to cake for dessert.
Everything old is new again. Nothing sums up the state of the pie market like this old axiom. Thanks to a wave of hip retail bakers, imaginative new flavors and a demand for good old comfort food, the pie has found itself anointed dessert of the moment. And while the ubiquitous apple remains king, some varieties are nipping at its heels.
“Traditional flavors are always popular, and our Chef Pierre® apple pies remain our top sellers,” says Andrea Berend, senior brand manager–pies for Sara Lee Foodservice, Downers Grove, Ill. “One product that continues to gain traction is our Bistro Collection Islander’s Key lime pie–which is now our second most consumer-preferred variety behind apple.”
Manufacturers are intrigued by the ability of shoppers to try new varieties while continuing to buy old favorites.
“We view the pie business as an interesting blend of tradition and innovation," says Scott Chavkin, director of marketing for Legendary Baking, Denver. “On the one hand, the most popular flavors have always been apple, chocolate, lemon, cherry, berry, etc. On the other, consumers will always want something new and unique.”
To capitalize on this taste for something new, Legendary Baking introduced varieties that combine traditional flavors, such as peach raspberry, pear blueberry, white chocolate cherry and mint brownie. But Chavkin says the demand by consumers for something new goes beyond just an extension of everyday flavors.
“One of the trends we’ve noticed is modern adaptations of classic desserts– bringing classics like bread pudding or cobbler into the 21st century by adding new twists to make them unique,” he explains. “Whether it’s something like white chocolate cranberry bread pudding or a peach raspberry cobbler with a pecan streusel, we’ve seen a reemergence of these tried-and-true favorites.”
This reimagining of classic desserts gives pie producers hope that their products have a real shot at making it to the table on occasions other than the traditional holidays.
“It’s no secret that Thanksgiving and the holidays are a very busy selling time in the pie business, but we’re working to create selling occasions throughout the year to keep pie relevant and on the minds of consumers,” Chavkin explains. “In addition, we’re also working on product offerings like a ‘celebration’ pie that can compete with cake for everyday celebrations.”
The recent availability of pie in a range of sizes has helped this marketing of pie as an everyday dessert. Recognizing that the individual-size trend had legs, Sara Lee Foodservice added three pie varieties to its Bistro Collection Individual Desserts line and three new flavors to its Chef Pierre pre-sliced pie range in 2010. The new versatility of pie is a great move for the industry, since it is now positioned to capitalize on the current health boom, as unlikely as that may seem.
“Sales of half/sliced/mini pies in the in-store bakery have done well over the past year, and we believe there’s a correlation between those results and the well-documented shift in consumers’ attitudes toward portion sizes and their desire for what they perceive to be healthier options,” Chavkin says. “Smaller portion sizes fit nicely into that trend because in their quest for healthier options, consumers still want that sweet indulgence on occasion without having to buy a whole 8-in. or 9-in. pie.”