KANSAS CITY — The pie world is branching out in all sorts of new directions.

Jim Antrup, vice president of sales and marketing for Tippin’s Gourmet Pies, said that Tippin’s has introduced two new programs this year to reach different supermarket segments.

First is the Tippin’s Featured Pie Program, which provides all of the elements for a successful instore bakery promotion, starting with “truly delicious cream pies.” Tippin’s is offering Peanut Butter Silk (chocolate and peanut butter), Chocolate Banana Cream, and Bananas Foster pies as limited-time only premium bakery items to help retailers create excitement in their instore bakeries and keep people coming back through the holidays.

The 8-inch pies are finished and ready to stock in the refrigerated or frozen bakery case, and Tippin’s provides custom POS (point-of-sale) signage and social media resources to help retailers promote the pies.

“Secondly, we introduced a new line of value pies called Heartland Pies,” Antrup said. “We focused on the most popular fruit (apple, cherry, blueberry) and holiday (pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato) pies and offer them as 8-inch pies, ready to unpack and sell. These are quality pies packed with slices of fruit and nuts, and we’re proud of these new pies that meet a need for retailers serving the value market.”

For retailers, when you feature halves, quarters and slices of fresh pies, bakery shoppers can clearly see the mounds of fresh fruit and tender, flaky crust. Smaller portion sizes have lower price points, which will encourage trial of new flavors and reduced waste, according to Gardner Pie Co. Quarter pies and slices are also an excellent addition to your home meal replacement and instore restaurant offerings. All this means more dollars at the register.

Tom Cavanaugh, vice president of sales and marketing for Gardner Pie in West Newbury, Mass., points out that the big trend with packaging right now involves “availability.”

“With the reopening of the economy, the supply chain is being challenged,” he said, “and traditional packing options are not readily available, and the cost is escalating. Sustainable, recyclable and environmentally friendly are still in demand. Showing off as much product as possible is still desirable.”

As for preferred packaging sizes for today’s consumers, Cavanaugh said that “simply put – smaller.” Household sizes are smaller, and smaller packaging translates into less waste; and the ability to maintain freshness.

Small portions and single-size servings seem to be on everyone’s radar, Antrup emphasized.

“We do see greater demand for our 6-inch pies, which is one of the growth segments in the pie category overall,” he said. “We also offer 8-inch and 9-inch pies for different retailers. Some of our instore bakery partners have success with repackaging our pies to sell as half-pies or slices. This is a smart solution for managing product shelf life, especially when it’s marketed well in store.”

“We do see greater demand for our 6-inch pies, which is one of the growth segments in the pie category overall.”

Jim Antrup, vice president of sales and marketing for Tippin’s Gourmet Pies

Economic shifts

The fall holidays are the major time of the year for pie, and it’s the busiest time of year for Tippin’s bakery partners, said Antrup of Tippin’s Gourmet Pies.

Apple pie varieties are top sellers throughout the fall season. Tippin’s has found that the earlier stores start to display pumpkin pies, the more they can sell. “Pumpkin Spice” season starts earlier each year due to the expectations created by the big coffee players, but really pumpkin pie is the original.

“Consumers will buy pumpkin pie in September and October if it’s merchandised so people know it’s available,” he said. “Beyond that, we find the holidays are big time for pecan pie, chocolate walnut pie, cherry pie, sweet potato pie, and our refrigerated cream pies like French Silk and Peanut Butter Silk.”

As the calendar heads toward fall, top-selling varieties of pie that supermarket bakeries need to promote include traditional favorites, according to Gardner Pie.

“Holidays equal tradition; and tradition means the standards – apple, cherry, pumpkin and pecan,” Cavanaugh said. “This has not changed for 100 years, and we do not see it changing anytime soon.  Variations on the basics can be seen at local bakeries (cherry cordial, brandied apple, etc.). However, the holidays are the time for traditions and the familiar.”

From Tippin’s, the new value line features six varieties of 8-inch, baked and ready-to-sell pies. Heartland fruit pies are available year-round and include 24-ounce apple, cherry, and blueberry pies with higher fruit content than most value pies. The Heartland holiday pies offering includes top-selling pecan, pumpkin, and sweet potato pies. 

“Heartland Pies are a quality pie designed for value-conscious shoppers,” Antrup said. “We make it easy for retailers to offer tasty, ready-to-sell pies that can increase your sales in the in-store bakery.” 

A happy accident

One of Tippin’s newest pie flavors – Chocolate Banana Cream – was inspired by a “happy accident.”

“We were testing some new equipment at our bakery and ran some of our chocolate cream through the same equipment that had just made Banana Cream pies, without cleaning in between,” Antrup says. “We were delighted by the flavor combination, and it inspired us to create a new pie! We’re offering this as one of our Featured Pies this year, designed to be available for a limited time only for our in-store bakery partners.”

Pie packaging

A lot of bakeries are using paperboard boxes for pie packaging, which may appear more sustainable, but Tippin’s has found the coatings applied to the paperboard render it unrecyclable, according to Antrup.

“Our current PET packaging is recyclable and reseals easily providing additional days of shelf life for our pies, so we’re happy about that,” he said. “We need for the recycling industry to continue to grow and become more widely useful and accessible. We will continue to focus on sustainability because our collective future depends on it.”

Gardner Pie has been looking at Innovations that will help “stretch the definition of pies,” meaning how can they take the category beyond a simple slice of pie for dessert.  

“We also have been looking to capture the hearts and minds of the younger generation,” Cavanaugh said. “Most of our efforts revolve around merchandising and communication.  The only limits we see are with our customers’ imagination.”

In the premium pie category, Gardner Pie continues to witness strong sales.

“We are comparing sales to both 2020 and 2019, given the COVID environment we experienced. In both instances we are experiencing increases greater than the industry norms,” Cavanaugh said. “Any positives can be found in the opening up of our economy, and pent-up demand for larger gatherings.  This environment is certainly conducive to increased sales of desserts/treats.”

The pie category has seen year-over-year growth of approximately 2% -- “forever,” he added. “Our primary goal is to see how we can expand the category and generate YOY increases in the 4-6% range.  Quality, creativity, innovation and speaking our customers language is our focus.”

“Our primary goal is to see how we can expand the category and generate YOY increases in the 4-6% range.”

Tom Cavanaugh, vice president of sales & marketing for Gardner Pie

Supply and demand

It’s been an interesting year for pie sales, to say the least, points out Antrup of Tippin’s Gourmet Pies. For some people, the pandemic meant more baking at home, so pie sales did take a dip in the middle of 2020, he explains.

“We also had some supply and production issues that made it difficult to keep our pies in stock, so we focused on our best-selling pies to get through the 2020 holidays,” Antrup said. “In 2021, we are back at full production capacity, and we are seeing positive signs for pie sales growth as people return to gathering with family and friends. Pies are made for sharing, and it’s an honor to have Tippin’s Pies included in those gatherings.”

Tippin’s is also a firm believer that pies sell year-round, not just during the holidays.

“If a retailer thinks pies sell only at the holidays, they miss out on 6+ percent of total bakery sales that can occur from offering pie year-round,” Antrup said. “We have retailers in several of our core markets whose pie sales as a percentage of total ISB are well into the double digits. Really great pies can set their bakeries apart, every day of the year.”

Profitable pairings

Must-have pairings can help your supermarket increase sales, according to Gardner Pie.

“We sell experiences,” Cavanaugh said. “So while focusing on our core value – quality – is important, we need to reinforce how we can help make our customer experiences enjoyable. Understanding how our pies can be enjoyed is a must.”

Beer and pies

Stout      Pina Colada

IPA         Pumpkin 

Porter    Cherry Lime

Pilsner    Red Raspberry

Lager      Apple Crisp  

Pie and Coffee

Extra Dark Roast                 Apple Cinnamon 

Dark Roast                          Pumpkin

Medium Roast                     Pecan

Light Roast                          Blueberry

Pie and Ice Cream

Vanilla Bean                         Peach     

Chocolate Chunk                Cherry

Cookie Dough                     Pecan     

Superman                            Very Berry

Moose Tracks                       Apple

How It’s Made

Hen House stores in the Kansas City marketplace receive pie crusts in tins from Tippin’s. Each store bakes the crusts on rotating rack ovens. Bakers flip the crusts over halfway through baking for even browning.

The Hen House bakers wash fresh, ripe Driscoll’s strawberries, remove the stems, and place the berries on trays to dry.

Next, the bakers spread Tippin’s special made-from-scratch strawberry glaze in the bottom of the pie crust.

They weigh out a full 30 ounces of strawberries for each pie.

The bakers arrange the strawberries inside the crust with the tip of the strawberry pointing up.

Bakers pour more strawberry glaze on top to coat the strawberries.

Finally, they pipe made-from-scratch whipped cream around the edges of the pie in swirls.