Eyes on the pies

Posted on 13 Aug 2008 by The Manufacturer

Pies remain an ever-popular staple food, especially in their home – the north-west of England. That’s where Holland’s Pies has been based for over 150 years

The latest Eurest Lunchtime Report, published every two years, shows that pies remain one of the top 10 choices for the lunchtime meal, with a 12 per cent market share. That puts them ahead of bacon and eggs/all-day breakfasts and burgers, and not that far behind soup. Not a bad record for something that has come under pressure from the healthy eating lobby.

There is no single, standard item that is exclusively a pie. Steak and kidney, of course; chicken and mushroom, naturally; and the north-west’s number one favourite, meat and potato. Those are the best known, the leaders, and may be more associated with the cooler months and the need for something hearty. All of them are to be found in the range of Holland’s Pies, a company that has been satisfying its discerning customers in the north-west of England since 1851, when the company was founded in Haslingden, Lancashire, by a certain Mr Whitaker and his stepdaughter Sarah. She married Richard Holland when he was 21 and the company name was changed to the Holland’s we know today. Their children got involved and as the company grew, it moved to steadily larger premises, finally settling in Baxenden, to the north of Manchester, in 1936. It remained a family company until after world war two and is now part of Northern Foods.

Customer satisfaction has always been at the core of Holland’s success. While it has a retail division, selling frozen and chilled pies to supermarkets in the north-west, its foundation continues to be family-owned chip shops and restaurants.

The takeaway and fast-food market has become vastly more competitive over the years. Customers have a huge range of choices, from the original chippies through fast-food restaurants to kebab shops and cafés. But Holland’s continues to prosper, which is a testament to its ability to adapt, change and innovate. It was one of the first companies to change from horse-and cart delivery vehicles to motorised transport in the 1920s. That spirit is visible today in both the expanding range and in recipe development.

Research confirmed that an increasing number of people are turning to snack food on the go due to their ever-increasingly busy lifestyles. Holland’s has been creating its famous pies since 1851, but with an increasing demand for convenience products it wanted to extend its offering to the most passionate of loyalists by creating a ready-to-eat option that could be eaten hot or cold – and so the savoury slice was born.

The new products recently launched include a slice version of its famous meat and potato pie. Alongside the well-loved meat and potato filling, which is made with minced beef and onion, diced potato and seasoning, three more flavours have been added to the range: steak and onion, chicken balti and chicken and mushroom.

The range was test marketed through consumer research groups and consumers in Lancashire early in 2008 and the response was very positive.
The ‘Slice’ range is the company’s first major product launch for two years; it represents a serious investment in time and money to get the recipes just right.

You don’t have to travel and queue outside a northern chippy to get a taste of Baxenden’s finest (although queues are always a good indication of what’s inside). Holland’s has a comprehensive range of retail offers, too, from traditional meat and potato pies, through pasties and sausage rolls to the intriguing Lancashire Hotpot pie. The name itself is enough to get them moving off the shelf in the supermarkets; chippy sales are supported by a range of interesting advertising and point-of-sale material. One campaign in particular attracted a lot of interest: it featured the faces of ordinary people enjoying themselves, drawn from historical sources and newspaper archives.

There is one thing that you can always depend on: fresh ideas and fresh products from Holland’s. Its fleet of vans criss-cross the north-west every day, ensuring its customers enjoy Holland’s Pies in the best possible taste.