When the founders of Serious Pig, a pub snacking company, were out for a drink several years ago, they ordered a craft beer and glass of Bordeaux, but realised there were no classy morsels to match their beverages. Where was the posh Peperami or the stylish salty bites, wondered George Rice and Johnny Bradshaw?
It prompted them to launch Serious Pig, with the aim of creating snacks that would not only complement drinks, but also provide proper sustenance to power people through to dinner.
The brand started with salami made from outdoor-bred British pork, sold in both classic flavour and chilli and paprika. It then grew to cover oven-baked pork crackling, flavoured with sea salt or accompanied with sweet chunks of crunchy red apple. Packets of peanuts and almonds seasoned with Cornish sea salt were also launched.
One of the more unusual additions was its lactose-free, vegetarian snacking cheese: a whole virgin wheel of mature Italian quattrocento is crumbled and baked in a special oven to create a crunchy-textured burst of flavour, then packaged in 24g servings. (If that doesn’t sound decadent enough, the oven used was built by Serious Pig’s Italian supplier and is worth €4m.)
“The cheese is going very well and what we’ve managed to do is to develop a flavour, which is cheese with rosemary,” Rice tells Food Spark. “The rosemary is one of the only herbs that stands up to the flavour of cheese and complements it. It’s about two weeks away from launch.”
Asian eats to salami crisps
But Rice says the company has hit the ceiling in terms of its ability to grow – despite being in a position to increase its manufacturing production by five times at its Peckham premises – and has launched a crowdfunding campaign. Its target is to raise £350,000, which will be used partly to get snacks into more hands but also to experiment.
“We are trying to innovate with new and exciting products, alongside more conventional products but by putting our twist on them,” Rice comments. “I would like to do an olive in a pouch – people are doing similar things to that, so it’s about how do we put our stamp on that.”
He also wants to branch out into flavours and food from the Far East, with Korea in particular in the Serious Pig sights.
“We would like to increase the number of products we have in three years’ time to 40 products, so introducing 10 products every year,” he adds. “We listen to our customer a lot. We like to hear what they are telling us as they are always full of ideas – when you work in the premium sector you are effectively selling to people that are passionate and creative about food.”
People have even suggested Serious Pig makes salami-flavoured crisps – and Rice is pondering the idea.
The UK snack market is valued at £18bn and Serious Pig wants to become the biggest premium savoury snack brand within that. It is currently in 500 pubs and there are about 6,000 more the founders are targeting, in addition to considering travel and hospitality hubs. The brand is also in discussion with one of the big four retailers to see whether it can get its products listed.
In the food pipeline are plans to do the current range in different formats – for example, a 60g option for its snacking cheese and other bigger bags.
As with other areas of food, Rice says the major trend he is seeing in snacking isa steady growth in consumer attitudes towards animal welfare, provenance and traceability.
“There is definitely a continuing trend of wanting to know a little bit more about what they are eating and how it’s been made, which benefits us in the premium sector. With meat, one of the biggest things I’ve seen is people will eat a little bit less but eat better quality, so meat with better welfare standards, and that’s something I don’t see slowing down any time soon,” he explains.
“Snacking also grows as people’s work/life balance means they don’t structure meals in a way they traditionally would have used to, and as craft beer continues to grow we benefit too. As people drink better beer in pubs they want better snacks.”
While Rice doesn’t believe salty pub snacks will be impacted by the uptick in healthy eating, he does think there are areas that are becoming crowded.
“I think there are too many meat snack businesses that are all doing something similar to one another. Meat snacks is slightly oversaturated with niche, small premium brands,” he explains.“My prediction is that a few brands or business that are focusing on food trends that are quite niche may not mange to get it to stick either.”