A WARRNAMBOOL institution is venturing into new territory.
On Wednesday morning at 4am Chittick's Bakery sent off its first batch of vegan party pies.
Some 30,000 party pies will be sold at Woolworths supermarkets on the eastern seaboard of Australia.
Chittick's have been producing pies in Warrnambool since 1930.
General manager Chris Waack said the bakery had been approached by a Melbourne company called Why Meat to make the pies.
He said in the past 15 weeks the business had employed an additional 14 new staff.
"We've got about 40-odd staff now," he said.
"This is all building the Chittick's brand.
"We're creating new jobs and that's a good thing for Warrnambool as well."
Mr Waack said the feedback on the vegan pie had been very positive.
"I'm a meat eater and I've tried them and they're very impressive," he said.
"You wouldn't know there is no meat in them unless someone told you."
Why Meat director and food technician Emma White said the plant-based industry was huge and was only going to get bigger.
"We've replicated a meat-based pie by using a pea protein," she said.
She said it was great to be able to support Warrnambool and regional Victoria through manufacturing the pies. She said Why Meat products weren't made to target vegans but to provide a plant-based option for people who ate meat. "It's not for vegans specifically although they do like the product," she said.
"It replicates comfort food."
Mr Waack said the bakery had been hit by the latest coronavirus lockdown but the vegan party pies had helped soften the blow.
"We deliver to a lot of tourist shops and places on the Great Ocean Road," he said.
"A lot of small businesses. We've got schools closed and football isn't happening."
He said the business purchased Melbourne based Ka Pies last year and that had also helped during the COVID lockdowns. "That has helped us get through," he said.
The bakery was recently recognised for its work by winning three medals at the National Pie Competition.
It won a silver medal for the plain meat pie, a silver medal for the Thai chicken pie and a silver medal for the vegan pie.
Mr Waack said the secret to a good pie came down to a few factors.
"You have to get the bottom pastry right, you want it to be thick and hold the pie up, you don't want it falling apart," he said.
"You need to have rich gravy and plenty of meat.
"And you need flaky pastry on top."