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Last Updated: Friday, 19 March, 2004, 11:24 GMT
'Pasty moguls' take on burger chains
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News Online

After decades as a dowdy West country staple, the humble pasty is being re-invented as fast-food for the fashionable. Can they really take on the burger giants?

Cornish pasty
Designer pasties are appearing in railway stations and tourist centres
The global burger chains and style-conscious coffee bars are facing a new rival, which is threatening to weaken their grip on the take-away market.

It's the Cornish pasty - and outlets for this hip and happening food are appearing all over the UK. From the tourist traps of London's Covent Garden, to Norwich, Glasgow and Wales, the pasty is appearing as a re-branded snack.

This traditional food of Cornish miners is now being served up as a modern designer product, taking on the bagels and skinny decaf lattes.

Instead of something that you might buy in an old-fashioned chip shop, the pasty is now being pitched at the food-on-the-move, sandwich shop market.

The West Cornwall Pasty Company, which uses the publicity strapline "From Cornish yokels to pasty moguls", has seen turnover rise to 14m a year, since starting from scratch in 1998.

Fancy fillings

The traditional pasty was made with steak, potato and turnip. But the new wave of pasty has flavours such as pork and apple, steak and stilton, chicken and balti, turkey and cranberry. There are also vegetarian versions, such as cheese and tomato basil.

The burger is facing a re-branded West country competitor
When youngsters in the 1970s accused each other of wearing "Cornish pasty shoes" they didn't have in mind trendy apple and raspberry-flavoured speciality food.

Company director Ken Cocking says that the growing popularity of the pasty reflects how customers want something different from the same old take-away chains.

"You can go down a high street in any town and you could be anywhere - they all look the same now, with the same shops. People see us as being different."

And he says that people see pasties as a more wholesome alternative to the burger, which has become associated with unhealthy living.

Berlin pasties

Pasties have not always been the most fashionable of foods - but re-packaged and put alongside the other snacking outlets, they are becoming an increasingly common sight.

The West Cornwall Pasty Company now has 12 outlets in London alone, with more planned. There are other designer pasty stalls cropping up in the capital - and last month, the concept was taken to Germany, with the first outlet opening in Berlin.

The pasty was originally intended as a type of food that could be carried in a miner's pocket. Within the pastry case, the contents were intended as a meal in itself, with savoury and sweet elements at either end of the pasty.

Another requirement for the original pasty was for it to be strong enough to withstand being dropped down a mineshaft.

Now the challenge for the pasty is to be strong enough to withstand being dropped by the novelty-hungry public.

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