ORLANDO, Fla. — Publix Super Markets and Kroger Co. had strong showings at the annual Great American Pie Festival, held here April 19 and 20.
Publix, Lakeland, Fla., won four first-place Blue Ribbon Awards, for its Pumpkin, Dutch Apple, Coconut Custard and Tangerine pies. Its Tangerine pie won in the Pie Festival's “New Product” category. Meanwhile, Kroger, Cincinnati, won a Blue Ribbon award for its Kroger Private Selection Black Cherry pie.
“Publix is a part of the pie industry, and this event affords us the opportunity to have our pies evaluated against our competitors,” Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous told SN.
Sponsored by the American Pie Council and Crisco, the seven-year-old festival includes judging in Commercial and Individual categories, pie-eating contests and a “Never Ending Pie Buffet.”
More than 50,000 slices of pie were featured on the buffet, including offerings from Publix, Schwan's Bakery, Bonert's Slice of Pie and Harlan Bakeries. Ice cream flavors and toppings from J.M. Smucker Co. and Publix allowed attendees the opportunity to create their ultimate “pie in the sky” fantasy, according to a statement from the American Pie Council, Chicago.
“We are given the opportunity to volunteer in the community and serve the public some of our product,” Brous said.
While this was Kroger's first year in the Pie Festival, Publix has participated since the event's inception. As a result, the grocery chain is able to use the American Pie Council's Blue Ribbon symbols in its stores on pies that win awards, such as last year's Blue Ribbon award for its Key Lime pie.
“Publix is one of our founding members and really understands the value of having the competition and awards. Consumers can see which pies are best, and supermarkets can see which of their vendors won awards and which ones did not,” Linda Hoskins, executive director of the American Pie Council, told SN.
While several other commercial bakers participate in the Pie Festival, including Bakers Square, J. Horner, Sara Lee and Schwan's, Hoskins is working to get more supermarkets involved in the competition — and in promoting pies.
She is urging grocers to join the American Pie Council, where “manufacturers and supermarkets are working together to sell more pies.” For example, the council supports National Pie Day on Jan. 23 with a nationwide promotion. The promotion is a great way to build up pie sales during a month when they typically lag, according to Hoskins.
“We would love to see supermarkets getting more involved,” she said.
Other winners at this year's Pie Festival include Key West Lime Pie Co.'s handheld Key Lime Bar, Harlan Bakeries' Apple Pie, Bakers Square's Raisin Supreme and J. Horner's Chocolate French Silk Pie.