When you think “savory pies and pasties”, your mind goes straight to “continuous consumer research”, right? Well, maybe not. But UK-based brand Pukka Pies definitely thinks the two go hand in hand.
A staple of the British savory pie market since 1963, Pukka Pies — or just Pukka — has been peddling its buttery, steamy goods for over six decades. Positioning itself as the “People’s Pie”, Pukka has managed to successfully integrate itself into its customers’ daily lives and routines — a true feat these days.
For many years, the brand focused solely on its line of full-sized pies. From Steak & Kidney to Chicken & Mushroom, Pukka’s main offerings were mostly hearty, meat-based pies meant for larger meals — a family-sized portion.
However, over the last few years, Pukka has been putting its hard-earned consumer insights to use. With the introduction of more vegetarian and vegan options, as well more “on-the-go” friendly products, Pukka’s expanding product range has caught the attention of the public.
In a recent interview with MarketingWeek, Pukka’s Head of Marketing and Innovation, Rachel Cranston, admitted that “consumer research has always been at the core of everything that (they) do.” So, how did Pukka go from a small, family business to a nationally-recognized brand?
This brand deep dive will take a look, as well as provide three lessons other brands can learn from Pukka.
Pukka’s Road to Success
Founded in 1963 by Trevor and Valerie Storer, Pukka Pies was originally called “Trever Storer’s Homemade Pies” and they sold their hand-crafted goods to pubs, fish and chips shops, and locals alike.
Though it was only a small family bakery at the time, they were selling thousands of pies and growing quickly. With expansion in mind, the couple needed to find an identity that lent itself to easier branding.
That’s when they officially became Pukka — “a fun and fashionable Hindi-derived word for all things genuinely, properly good.”
With its new brand name and now-recognizable brand identity, Pukka continued to grow — releasing new recipes, hiring more workers, and expanding its reach. For many years, the brand’s pies were sold only in fish and chips shops and pubs, giving them an air of exclusivity.
But in 2005, Pukka made the smart decision to release a line of three of its biggest sellers in British supermarket Sainsburys — Steak & Kidney, Chicken & Mushroom, and Minced Beef & Onion. Now, Pukka Pies are also available in other stores in the UK, such as Tesco, Iceland, and Morrisons.
This was a big step for Pukka, as it required them to up their production quite a bit to meet a new, more intense demand for their products. But it also allowed the brand to increase its brand awareness with British consumers and become a household name.
Having dubbed itself “The People’s Pie”, Pukka has worked hard to make its product a beloved part of consumers’ everyday lives — something the brand has been able to improve over the last few years with its product expansion.
As of 2019, what once was only sold as a full-sized offering was now available in a “Just for Two” size. This made the Pukka pie a more accessible product for couples, indecisive families, or consumers who live alone — each of which are highlighted in Pukka’s ad below.
However, it still stuck to Pukka’s brand identity as “The People’s Pie” — just expanding the definition a bit.
Fast forward to 2021, and Pukka was once again ready to expand. Using information pulled from “continuous consumer research”, Pukka was able to determine that its customers were in search of more variety.
In Cranston’s MarketingWeek interview, she stated:
“A big thing from our research was that there was over 80% purchase intent to buy a sausage roll, pasty or slice from Pukka, and over 50% of our current buyers are already buying into those categories.”
So, from Pukka’s own consumer research, it was able to determine that its customer wanted new products — specifically sausage rolls, pasties, and slices. And in an effort to fulfill this purchase intent — as well as grow its brand, increase its customer base, and further integrate into its customers’ lives — Pukka gave the people what they wanted.
According to Cranston, Pukka is “a brand that’s very much built on data first and foremost” — however, it’s also one that’s “building a category and a consumer and sales story with listening to the consumer at the core of it all”.
By using consumer feedback to make intelligent, data-driven decisions, Pukka has been able to grow sustainably in a tumultuous time. As Cranston explained, it’s about Pukka “being able to tap into even more occasions in people’s lives. By making a proposition that people can have on the go, it just makes (Pukka) more relevant for more people on more occasions.”
And in this situation, increased relevancy is meant to equal increased sales. By adding new products to its lineup but keeping them “under that one umbrella” of the “People’s Pie” campaign, Pukka was able to similarly position its new offerings as the “People’s Sausage Roll” and the “People’s Slice”.
Furthermore, by adding more vegetarian and vegan options to its product lineup, Pukka has been able to adapt to changing consumer tastes and preferences, as well as appeal to an entirely new target audience.
These changes will allow Pukka to further solidify its place as a “fabric of the nation brand” in 2022 and beyond — and there’s a lot to be learned from this family-owned business. So, let’s see what lessons we can glean from Pukka Pies.
3 Lessons To Learn From Pukka Pies
Source: The Brand Gym
Over the last six decades, Pukka went from a small, mom-and-pop pie shop to a nationally-recognized brand sold in more than 4,000 shops and supermarkets, as well as 40 spots grounds, around the UK.
In 2020, the brand “showed sales of £53 million, slightly up on 2019” — and it plans to keep on growing from there.
So, what can other brands learn from Pukka Pies? Let’s discuss.
1. Consumer Insights Are Everything
This point should come as no surprise — everything Pukka does revolves around consumer insights. From informing product expansion to strengthening brand identity, Pukka uses consumer data to dominate within its market.
To some, this may be a bit surprising. After all, not many brands in Pukka’s category put as much emphasis on the role of consumer insights in their growth and marketing strategies.
But one thing is for sure — you’ll never go wrong when you listen to your consumers’ desires, needs, and painpoints. Your job as a company is to provide consumers with the products and services they actually want, and it's the brand manager's job to figure out what those are.
However, you do need to ensure that the consumer insights you use to steer your brand strategy are accurate and reliable. There are many different sources from which you can gather such information — be it DIY surveys or focus groups.
But, the smartest and most effective way to gather consumer insights is through the use of advanced brand monitoring software. With this option, you can ensure that your data is accurate and reliable — allowing you to make the data-driven decisions that will help your brand grow intelligently.
The Takeaway: Listen to your consumers. They know what they want, and they’re more than willing to tell you.
But, also, make sure you gather this information in a smart way — there’s nothing worse than basing important marketing decisions on sub-standard consumer data.
2. Never Underestimate the Power of a Loyal Workforce
When times get tough, it’s totally understandable that many employees go in search of greener pastures. Whether it’s an economic downturn, a global pandemic, or personal reasons — there are plenty of situations where a brand’s workforce can see significant turnover.
And, unfortunately, that turnover can often lead to even more issues for an already struggling brand. At Pukka, that’s not really a problem. In a recent interview with BusinessLive, General Manager Isaac Fisher called attention to the Pukka’s brand values, explaining:
“The founding principle of (our directors) Tim and Andrew Storer has always been about looking after our people and we have a longstanding, committed and loyal workforce which has helped us through the recent challenges in labour shortages.”
The last two years have been incredibly difficult for brands all over the world — but businesses like Pukka have been able to remain successful despite setbacks. And a major reason for this success is its loyal and well-treated workforce.
When a company treats its employees well — provides fair pay, nice benefits, and a safe, inclusive work environment — they’re far more likely to remain steadfast and loyal when faced with a tough situation.
As a family-run business, Pukka has always made it a priority to look out for its workers and provide them with the best possible environment. This commitment to excellence not only for consumers but also for employees is one of the reasons Pukka has been able to grow during a time when many other brands have shut down.
The Takeaway: Hopefully, this lesson isn’t a surprise for most readers. When companies treat their employees well, they’re far more likely to earn their respect, loyalty, and commitment in the long term.
And a committed workforce is a boon to every brand — no matter its industry.
3. Variety Is The Spice of Life (& Helps Meet Consumer Demands)
There’s nothing wrong with having one or two strong products or services that consumers love. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
For many years, Pukka focused solely on its fan-favorite: the full-sized pie. Of course, it came in many different flavors, but it was the brand’s only offering for almost five decades.
Around 2019, Pukka made a smart move by introducing its new “Just For Two” pie — smaller and more flexible than its full-sized offering. The brand also expanded its product lineup to include vegetarian and vegan options, allowing it to connect with an entirely new audience.
But how did Pukka know which moves to make and when to make them? It used consumer insights. Based on data gathered from its target audience, Pukka was able to determine that its consumers wanted more variety.
While they enjoyed its full-sized pies, consumers also wanted more on-the-go options — as well as more vegetarian and vegan-friendly products. And Pukka delivered.
Now, the brand offers a great deal more variety than it ever has before, and in doing so, is able to meet evolving consumer demands.
The Takeaway: Consumer demands are not static. As consumers themselves grow and evolve, so do their wants and needs. Smart brands keep their finger on the pulse of these changes, that way they can react accordingly and give consumers what they want.
To be successful in the long run, every brand needs to adapt to changing consumer demands — whether that means taking growing trends (like veganism) into account or ensuring that your products are sourced sustainably. Consumer insights will always shine a light on the way forward.
Pukka’s journey from a tiny family bakery to a UK household name is impressive, and they’ve pulled out all the stops to get there. From investing heavily in consumer insights to adapting flexibly to changing consumer demands, Pukka has proven that it's a force to be reckoned with.
To ensure that your own brand has access to the best consumer insights, we recommend checking out our brand tracking tool. From mobile-optimized surveys to advanced statistical modeling, there are plenty of things that set Latana apart from the competition and provide brands with more accurate, easy-to-understand insights.