THE Welsh love a pie. According to pastry specialists Jus-Rol, the average Welsh person eats three pies a month or 2,160 pies over the course of an average adult lifetime.

Jus-Rol founded British Pie Week back in 2007 with the aim of raising awareness of all things encased in pastry, with the company also launching a contest to pit the UK's regions against each other to create the best new pie that includes the iconic flavours and ingredients of the area. The firm have even created an art 'pie-ce' at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff using 1,273 individually handmade pies in celebration of the week, which runs from March 4-10.

Here in North Wales, we're lucky enough to have one of the nation's leading pie makers, who can point to a cabinet full of trophies as evidence of their skill, which can trace its origins to a butcher's shop set up in Tan-y-Fron in 1935.

"The butchers closed around 27 years ago when my father passed away," explains Kieran Roberts, owner of Roberts Country Fayre, who operate out of a factory in Rhostyllen. "We have about 7,500 square feet now and we're growing. We're building a gluten free bakery as we speak and that will launch in April and we currently employ 10 people."

Having moved to their new factory unit on Bersham Enterprise Centre in 2003, the company changed tact from supplying small pies and pasties to butchers and chip shops to developing large pre-portioned speciality pies for pubs and restaurants.

"Our products are on the higher end of the scale," continues Kieran. "We've steadily grown where we're now supplying around 28 wholesalers across the UK. The pies are made here and frozen and then put on a lorry for transportation across the country.

"We also export pies to Spain where they are delivered to Malaga and then distributed from there to the ex-pat community."

In 2014, Kieran began exhibiting at food festivals prompting a run of success for their pies, which include popular flavours including Welsh beef and mushroom in ale gravy and chicken, ham and leek.

"We've won lots of awards," says Kieran, proudly. "In 2016 we were British Pie Awards champions in the cold, savoury pie section, which was a huge event for us. We followed it up with two golds in 2017 and in 2018 we had a gold and a silver. We won the Welsh championships four or five times on the trot."

Ask Kieran about the secrets to his success and he becomes tight lipped about specific recipes but ingredients are key.

"You buy quality ingredients you get a quality product," he says. "We do lots of taste tests to make sure the product tastes as it should do and then we go from there.

"Our steak and ale pie is our biggest selling product and it is just growing and growing in popularity. It's become a core product on any menu in a pub or restaurant and we try to make it so that everyone involved can make a little bit of money.

"We've perfected a pastry that is good out of the microwave - it is a blend of fats and flours that we keep a close secret. It releases the moisture a lot quicker than a lard-based pastry and so it crispens well and we recommend just flashing it in an oven and it's as though it has just been baked."

For those on a gluten free diet, it can mean a lot of staple winter dishes can seem out of the question, but Kieran is determined to look into the gluten free market for his pies.

"There is a demand but there is a price aspect to making gluten free pastry," he explains. "But the pastry is getting better and better now and I would say it is top notch what we're doing.

"We stick to what sells because although we have a factory shop we don't have a retail outlet. Once a year we'll have a product development meeting but it's all about the gluten free side of things at the moment and we have three quiches and two pies coming out and we will grow that into vegetarian products and possibly some vegan products. We want to do more with intolerances too."

While there are a few worries about Brexit ("throw the balls up in the air and see where they land," is Kieran's response to the prospects of no deal), the baker sees a bright future for pie making in Wrexham.

"We're expanding all the time," he added. "Our products are low fat - we did some testing and they're very close to being able to be sold as low fat and for me a pie continues to be a great product."