SoBo gem expands: Go wild over Pie Mad - INTERVIEW
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • August 09, 2013 @ 11:56am
The English Pork Pie Company’s method for success is a telling example of how local business has evolved.
An internationally revered brand—the EPPC was recognized as the “Best British Shop” outside of the UK by the Telegraph—that’s still rather unknown locally, the South Buffalo business owned by Damian and Vicky Parker will take an aggressive lunge into the local market.
While the ownership duo has vended hot English-style pies from 1176 South Park Ave.—also the site of EPPC’s giant production facility—since spring 2012, the creation of another American-themed brand has the company more viable in the national market.
Humble Pie Group, a separate brand owned by the Parkers, has released a line of five varieties of frozen pies to 133 Tops Markets across the Northeast thanks to the efforts of Massachusetts-based JOH. Humble Pie is expected to infiltrate Wegmans’ shelves toward the end of September.
“We needed a line of product to be closer to the American palate,” English Pork Pie Company operations manager Gregg Steinberg said in an interview Friday. “A lot of the English pies—like the steak & kidney pies, pork pies and cold pies—are a tougher sell for Americans, and we want to offer more iconic pies to the U.S.”
To date, EPPC makes an overwhelming majority of its revenue from online sales, shipping products across the world through an exceptional e-commerce strategy. The Parkers’ business is so notable internationally that celebrity chefs like Hell’s Kitchen’s Gordon Ramsay and Hollywood entertainers regularly place orders.
Still, the transition from nostalgic English specialty to popular American treat has yet to transpire.
Here’s a rundown on the five different offerings currently in stores—all running at $3.99 before tax, sales or coupons.
**The Buffalonian: spicy chicken-filled pie “made especially for the local palate and sure to be celebrated by wing lovers everywhere”
**The Philly Cheese Steak: hand-trimmed steak and gravy with white cheddar cheese
**The Cheesehead: filled to the brim with real Wisconsin cheese and flavorful onion (this variety has been very popular in the early going)
**The Paddy’s Irish Pie: filled with a combo of meat, potato and gravy that makes any St. Patty’s Day
**The Columbus: celebrate the discovery of America with savory chicken and a vegetable medley sailing in a cheesy sauce and finished off with a sprinkling of cracked pepper
According to a press release sent by the Parkers, here’s a quick introduction to the new line:
Pie Mad pies are made in unique microwave-safe trays and held in convenient grab-and-go boxes, making a quick meal that is easy to consume for busy folk to enjoy in a flash. Of course, they can always be popped in the oven for an easy dinner as well.
Pie lovers will also be happy to know that our products are low in sodium and contain no MSG, trans fats, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
Moreover, according to early customer reports on the Pie Mad Facebook page, the frozen Americanized line holds firm to the English Pork Pie Company’s scruples.
1. Proper Filling: We fill all of our pies to the brim. There is never a need to go searching for a morsel of meat in our pies. The meat will most certainly find you.
While it may be easy to get confused by the myriad brands under the English Pork Pie Company mothership, the subordinate Humble Pie Group and Pie Mad products are intended to overcome cultural assumptions and market a superior product to a wider audience.
“We want to change what’s been a very stagnant market [for British food],” Steinberg added. “We want to change the nature of how people think about pies. We’d love to be like Ben & Jerry’s was to ice cream in coming up with funky, innovative flavors.”
Steinberg noted that Humble Pie plans to develop regional and holiday-based pie varieties as the brand expands throughout the United States. He pointed to a Fourth of July pie that would incorporate apples and toffee, a Boston fish pie themed after the Titanic, a Louisiana pie with crawfish and a Southern pie containing spicy BBQ pulled pork—just to name a few of the 150 varieties in the works.
Despite the regional twists, Steinberg emphasized the local influence that would underscore Humble Pie, pointing to William Street’s Will Poultry and Elmwood Avenue’s MOD-PAC as examples of nearby business cooperation.
Humble Pie’s goals are admittedly lofty—the owners want to spur economic growth in South Buffalo by adding at least a hundred jobs while eventually producing one million pies per day. With an expansive facility, room to grow and an already existing automated line churning out pies at a rapid rate, the sky is the limit for the English Pork Pie Company to slowly shift the perception of English-style pies.
(Photos courtesy of Pie Mad’s Facebook page).