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Clive's Pies Visit

Date Published: 03-12-2021

In November of this year, Claire Stapley from the Goods In department and PR & Marketing Coordinator Jimmy Nelson visited Essential Trading’s sole pie producer, Clive’s Pies.  Originally set up in 1986 by one man (you guessed it, Clive) with a love of baking wonderful veggie produce, the business has since surpassed its humble beginnings.  Already recognised for its delicious range of nutritious, ready-to-eat, veg packed pies, the bakers are now re-branded as Clive’s Purely Plants.  With a new name, new bakery, new investors and now, a 100% vegan range, we felt it was high time to visit our favourite pie pioneers to see what the secret to great taste and continuing success is.

One thing that struck us on our tour of the bakers was how well structured it was.  The planning on the build and the production line was meticulous and allowed each stage of the pie creating process to flow.  Imagine watching an endearing cartoon with an ideas room where recipe brainstorming takes place.  Follow this with a frame-by-frame film that ends with a character loading up a truck with the finished product and driving off into the sunset and you’ll have the right idea!  When we commented on this, Michael and Becky informed us that this allowed them to produce more whilst still maintaining the traditional, made-to-order production process.  We’d suggest that there’s not many manufacturers that still adopt such a tailored production line. 

It wasn’t only the structure that impressed us.  The attention to detail and best-practise was hugely inspiring.  Not only were there specific PPE uniforms for different rooms in the production process, there were different mixing rooms to accommodate for consumption allergy issues.  A big oven upgrade has allowed the business to take multiple baking “trolleys” at once and increase production.  It also means that there is now a wholemeal oven and a gluten-free oven, a fine example of customer care.  And it doesn’t end there.  A two-fridge set up accommodates the aforementioned baked types and even the flooring is colour coded to signify food safety and food hygiene parameters.  Finally, the goods are packed and sent down a chute into an x-ray machine for a stringent final check.  Pretty impressive, we think you’ll agree.

While Clive has long since retired, his ethos and plant positivity lives on in the team today, now headed up by Managing Director, Esther Pearson.  Esther summarises the business delightfully,

“We are a 100% vegan bakery that has been pioneering plants for more than 35 years. Sustainability, ethical practices and being considerate to the planet are things we built into our business from the very beginning. Today, we’re striving to do even better and make it easier than ever for shoppers to make small changes that can have a big impact, without ever compromising on taste. We now have more than 20 products in the Clive’s range including classic bakes like our signature Creamy Mushroom Pie and 11 other delicious varieties (including a full gluten free range). Last summer we launched a new range of egg-less quiches – and the first ever vegan Quiche Lorraine. Our latest innovations include two new puff pastry pies using seitan, and a new take on our classic Nut Roast using mushrooms. There’s more exciting new product development underway, so watch this space.” 

All ingredients have a “food passport” detailing their origins, and everything is still made in a traditional, small batch, hand-filled production line, factors that are celebrated by the business and its customers.  This adopted model has proved to be a fruitful one; the Covid pandemic didn’t stop them producing quality pies and they continue to grow and receive a lot of industry praise.  There is even scope for more baking if required as they currently only bake for three mornings in a week.  That’s great news for Essential, as we have seen sales rise by 33% in the trading year of 2019 – 2020.  And with the new family nut roast big enough for four people to share and perfect for the Christmas season, we are thoroughly looking forward to more wonderful things in 2022.

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