Growing the core: Pukka Pies

It’s great to see the brand strategy coaching work we did for Pukka Pies* last year coming to life, with recent news of a total brand re-launch program. As I explore below, this is a perfect example of growing the core, using five of the key drivers from our core growth model. The revitalisation efforts already seems to be paying off, with sales growing +14.6% in the year to September 2017, fuelled by the key driver of core brand growth which is penetration: up from 14.2% to 16.2%, reaching an extra 580,000 households.

*NOTE: For non-UK readers (or posh Londoners) who might not know it, Pukka is a brand of pies that started out selling at football matches and in fish & chip shops. The brand has a distinctive orange colour, but the packaging was pretty cheap looking, being served in a cellophane wrapper – see below.

1. Drive distribution

We call distribution “viagra for the core”. It might not be as sexy as social media, but boy does it work. This has been an important growth driver for Pukka, with the push from out-of-home into retail continuing.

We did suggest the need to also renovate the brand’s presence in the fish & chip shop and football channels that made the brand famous. So its good to see that these channels have not been forgotten, based on the brand’s website (below).

2. Upgrade the product

When working on Pukka, we highlighted the need to increase product quality to get an edge versus own label. One option under discussion was to improve the pastry, making it even more golden. And this upgrade is part of the re-launch.

3. Refresh the brand identity

We also identified the need to boost distinctiveness and improve the quality perception of the brand, with visual identity having a key role to play. Here, the marketing team and agency 1HQ have done a good job of identifying and then amplifying the visual essence of the brand.

First, the brand logo itself has been cleverly refreshed, to make it more impactful and up-to-date. Simplifying the brand name to Pukka is smart. It make the name simpler, and leave room for future stretch beyond pies.

  • Keep: orange colour, brand name, capital letters, holding device
  • Update: more contemporary orange colour, more compact holding device
  • Lose: “Pies” in the name

Second, the pack design has been upgraded. Notice how the pack is so much less busy. The hotch-potch of text and visuals that required rational ‘system 2’ thinking have been cut. The new pack uses intuitive ‘system 1’ thinking: by “shouting” less, it better communicates product quality. And there is a single, simple upgrade claim about the “golden pastry”. I would bet this new pack has better stand-out on shelf.

4. Boost top of mind awareness

We highlighted an opportunity to boost top-of-mind awareness, which was low in relation to total awareness. We recommended the need to “shout loud and proud” with an integrated communication campaign that showed families enjoying the product’s taste, but also getting an emotional lift. This positioning is well reflected in the new campaign from Quiet Storm that is being backed with a significant £8million media budget.

The campaign (below) nicely captures the brand’s sense of humour, an important point of distinctiveness versus the more serious competition. The ad shows a mum who is unfazed by the problems her family shares thanks to her Pukka pie, telling them, “don’t worry guys, everything’s pukka”. The ‘Everything’s Pukka’ tagline is a nice, simple summation of the positioning and cleverly integrates the brand name.

The quality of the mix has been stepped up significantly, with the production values a big improvement versus the campaign below from four years ago. ‘Everything’s Pukka’ captures much better the combination of product “sausage” and emotional “sizzle” versus the more rationally focused and overly long tagline ‘Pukka Pies, don’t compromise’.

5. Core range extension

The final core growth driver Pukka has used is core extension, with the ‘Posher Pukka’ range. These pies are a good way for Pukka to fight back against premium priced competition such as Higgedy and own label. The  range will include more “premium” ingredients, and includes flavours like chicken, leek & pancetta, steak & porter ale, and veggie tikka masala with chickpea and spinach.

With this extension, Pukka is pulling on both of the two levers for core brand growth: first, continuing to drive penetration, by attracting new users to the brand; second, driving ‘premiumisaiton’ which is hopefully boosting gross margins, with a price of £2.50 being 65% above the recommended price for regular Pukka pies.

In conclusion, the Pukka brand re-launch is an excellent example of core brand revitalisation and I hope to sales continue to grow nicely in the coming years as the program rolls out.


To get some practical help to grow your core business, you can download our Core Growth Driver toolkit by using the form below. This walks you through the 8 core growth drivers we’ve used on consulting projects and in training for leading companies including Mars, Unilever, Mondelez and AB InBev.

We also offer a short, on-demand course on our brandgym Academy platform here. The course is only £95+VAT and is fully refunded if you go on to take the full Mastering Brand Growth program.

For more on growing the core, see this earlier post.