Story by Beth Day
KANSAS CITY, MO — Highlighting the latest pie trends, Food & Drink Resources (FDR) observed that pie is everything people want right now. Pies highlight seasonal ingredients and conjure authentic tastes from different regions. They are local, and over time, become part of regional cuisine and folklore.
Shoofly pie, typically made with molasses, has been the signature dessert of the Pennsylvania Dutch since the 1880s. Key lime pie is a staple on menus throughout Florida. The citrusy fare has been the official state pie since 2006. Natchitoches meat pie, a savory pie similar to an empanada, was declared the official pie of Louisiana in 2003.
Most people have a memory of pie, like grandma’s famous apple or pumpkin pie served every holiday season. Classic flavors elicit such intense feelings of nostalgia that other bakery categories are borrowing ideas for product innovation. For example, Crumbl Cookies, based in Logan, UT, has created a number of pie-inspired cookie inventions, such as pumpkin, pecan and French silk.
“Pies do continue to perform well during key holiday periods, as they often bring us back to happy times from our past,” said Melissa Altobelli, senior VP, client insights, dairy and bakery vertical for Circana. “Reminding consumers of the nostalgia evoked by eating pie creates the opportunity to drive sales via social media messaging.”
Pies can lend themselves to limited-time offerings inspired by seasons, holidays and special events. Polly’s Pies, a family-owned company in Anaheim, CA, pulled inspiration for its Strawberry Lemonade Pie from lemon filling blended with cream cheese and topped with strawberries.
The famous Kentucky Derby pie, produced by Kern’s Kitchen in Louisville, KY, is served alongside horse racing history every May. Made with pecans, chocolate chips and bourbon, this pie has been served for the past 35 years at Churchill Downs, selling about 10,000 slices on Derby Day alone.
And now, it seems pie just might be the new wedding cake. David Tutera, star of WEtv’s My Fair Wedding, is showcasing pie at wedding celebrations. Mini pies are appearing on wedding buffets and being served at bridal showers or rehearsal dinners. Pie poppers are being displayed in bouquets and included in guests’ goodie bags.
Of course, pie is nothing if not versatile, whether it’s a culinary masterpiece served at the finest restaurants or a rustic dessert made at home. Sweet or savory pie fillings are only limited by imagination and available ingredients. Pies can accommodate the growing list of consumer dietary needs and be made free from gluten, dairy, eggs or sugar. Striking the right balance creates products that appeal to health-conscience consumers while delivering on indulgence.
Altobelli observed that pies are still viewed primarily as an indulgence, but there could be an additional opportunity in low sugar or other health-and-wellness attributes. Top pies from a unit perspective include Patti’s Good Life in Wynnewood, PA, which offers pies with no sugar added, and Joyebells Desserts in Richmond, VA, which are local and indulgent.
This story has been adapted from the September | Q3 2023 issue of Commercial Baking. Read the full story in the digital edition here.