Grab Your Piece of the Pie
Adaptable and delectable, pie melds to the flavors of the season like no other treat. It can be spiced for fall, warm and inviting for winter, refreshing in spring, and traditional in summer.
Although most save it for holidays and special events, pie’s versatility makes it an ideal menu option for any occasion.
Whether it’s tart and fruity, sweet and creamy, or rich and savory, pie appeals to every kind of craving, and its appeal can apply to a wide variety of breakfasts, snacks, dinners, and desserts.
The Life of Pie
Boasting a long and rich history, pie dates back to the ancient Egyptians. Many early American pie crusts served more as pie pans, meant to hold fillings—such as meats, poultry, fruits, and cheeses—rather than to be eaten.
It wasn’t until around the time of the American Revolution that people began embracing the crust, turning pies into true nutritional workhorses.
Often called “desperation” or “make-do” pies, when resources were scarce—like the Great Depression—and during the times before refrigeration and reliable infrastructure, pies were made with whatever fillings were non-perishable and always available.
Vinegar, molasses, dried fruits, and oats were all long-lasting, economical ingredients found in pantries that would “make do” as fillings in the absence of fresh fruit or eggs. These innovations helped turn pie into a true four-season treat.
As pie became a mainstay throughout the year, it soon became a mainstay in American culture, evolving into “the most traditional American dessert.”
As of 2017, pie ranked as the No. 4 dessert on menus, according to Mintel (Mintel Menu Insights Q3 2015-Q3 2017).
Even so, many consumers find buying an entire pie daunting or impractical. In turn, this can make suppliers hesitant to craft whole pies that may go to waste.
While this concept likely contributes to the increase in the slice and half-pie category (between February 2016 and February 2017), it also introduces the idea of getting inventive with ways to incorporate the essence of pie in other offerings.
Now is the time to take a new look at the classic all-American treat and discover how you can create foods inspired by the humble—yet entirely delicious—pie.
Sweet as Pie
Apple. Pumpkin. Boston cream.
Although these crowd-pleasing favorites are commonly found on Thanksgiving and picnic tables, the feelings of nostalgia these desserts stir among consumers (50% of Americans think of the word “comforting” when they think of pie) can be evoked by any sweet treat, any time, anywhere.
And stirring up homey feelings of warmth and happiness is exactly what product developers should be doing, given that the nostalgia trend is still on the rise. In its 2018 Culinary Forecast, the National Restaurant Association placed comfort foods in the top-5 perennial favorites among professional chefs.
Try giving the already classic milkshake a pie-inspired spin. Top a pumpkin milkshake with whipped cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and pie crust pieces to turn a once-a-year holiday indulgence into easily accessible dessert.
For a slightly less common—although completely familiar—option, top a chocolate milkshake with whipped cream, toasted coconut, pecans, and pie crust pieces for a unique interpretation on German chocolate pie.
Or take apple pie a la mode to a new level by mixing pie crust pieces, dried apples, and apple cinnamon granola into cinnamon spiced ice cream. Add in some praline pecans for an extra crunchy surprise.
Another option is to take advantage of the mini-pie trend—which saw a 28.7% sales increase between February 2016 and February 2017, according to the Nielsen Company—by adding some pie flair to cupcakes.
Fill a vanilla cupcake with pastry cream and top with chocolate ganache and pie crust pieces for a cake version of the Boston cream pie.
Savory as Pie
Fruit pies, or tarts, didn’t become available until the 1500s. Before then, pies were predominantly filled with meat.
Not only are these savory pies still found today, but the National Restaurant Association identifies chicken pot pie as a hot comfort food trend for 2018. However, the same concerns over consumers’ hesitations to invest in an entire pie apply to this category.
Make it easy for customers to enjoy the warm comfort of chicken pot pie as a single serving by topping a creamy chicken and vegetable soup with surprising pie crust pieces. Go beyond oyster crackers and do the same to a hearty beef stew for an unexpected layer of texture.
Of course, savory foods aren’t limited to lunch and dinner.
In fact, Chicago’s Bang Bang Pie shop tells its patrons that they should be eating pie for breakfast.
While some of the shop’s offerings are still sweet in nature—like its peach raspberry pie—other restaurant-goers add fried eggs to their breakfast-style chicken pot pies.
Perhaps a simpler application of a savory breakfast pie would be a take on the classic quiche.
Elevate a meat, cheese, veggie, and egg muffin by topping it with pie crust pieces for a warm and filling breakfast to-go.
Easy as Pie
Whether it’s sweet or it’s savory, Americans love snacking. And just as it has a place at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, pie has a place in between meals as well.
A major benefit snackers look for from their noshes is ease. As such, foodservice suppliers recognize the importance of “creating a convenient way for people to enjoy desserts.”
Rather than juggle a slice of pie on a plate, try putting a lemon custard or peanut butter and chocolate pie filling in a to-go cup and top with pie crust pieces. Add extra layers of intrigue by including lemon bark or sea salt caramel pecans, respectively.
For an alternative snacking option, offer key lime yogurt with a side of pie crust pieces and a key lime crunch for consumers to mix in as they please.
Another portable application that consumers enjoy all day long is coffee. Top a smooth, mocha blended latte with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and pie crust pieces for a sippable French silk pie.
Get a Slice of the Action
Parker Products’ new pie crust inclusions let you turn any of your applications into comforting, pie-inspired creations.
If you’re ready to take pie beyond the pan, send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.