Greggs has announced ambitious plans to open more shops in supermarkets and airports as the company’s continued expansion helped to drive sales higher.
The high street bakery chain revealed that sales jumped 21.5 per cent to £844 million for the six months to July 1st.
This included a boost from higher demand from customers, price increases and new store openings.
Greggs said it increased its store estate by 50 to 2,378 shops across the UK, after opening 94 sites but shutting 44 over the half year.
The company has outlined ambitions to grow its estate to “significantly more than 3,000 shops” over the long term.
It plans to accelerate its growth plans over the rest of the year and anticipates it will have had 150 net openings across the whole of 2023.
A phenomenal growth story
Following humble beginnings on Tyneside in the mid-20th century, Greggs – founded by John Gregg – has enjoyed a meteoric rise to become a mainstay on British high streets.
In 2016, the bakery was hailed as a brand that had “conquered Britain” after figures showed it was selling 2.5 million sausage rolls a week.
Today, it makes and sells five sausage rolls every second, the equivalent of one million per day or seven million a week.
Indeed, it sells enough sausage rolls for one person to eat one every day for 356,000 years and is now the most popular dining brand in the UK amongst millennials in an extremely crowded market, with 73 per cent of them having a favourable opinion of the chain.
The secret to their success
But traditional bakery goods are only a small part of what Greggs does. Indeed, the key to its success has been its ability to position itself as a brand of choice.
Where bakeries used to compete with major supermarkets that sell cheap, take-home goods, Greggs has repositioned itself as a ‘food-to-go’ chain offering affordable and accessible food at all times of day and, increasingly, even at night.
Indeed, the move to open shops in airports and even in supermarkets themselves to complement their strong presence on high streets and in service stations underscores their ability to constantly find demand.
Today you are just as likely to pop in for a salad and a juice to eat back at the office, a bacon roll and a coffee to eat on the commute in or eschew meat altogether with treats from their vegan range that caters for another burgeoning market.
Bosses at the Newcastle-based business have also been keen to emphasise how they have benefited from its “value position” amid continued demand from customers with squeezed household finances.
Alongside the traditional stores, Greggs has launched a number of outlet shops where unsold food is redistributed and sold at a lower price.
The majority of the products are less than half the price you’d usually pay in-store, and given they’re already pretty cheap, that’s really saying something!
And it’s not out-of-date stuff. It’s simply items which were made the day before but didn’t sell, so they are passed onto the regional stores.
The high-street pastry chain opened its first Outlet shops in 2022, and there are now 28 in operation across the UK.
By the end of 2025, Greggs wants to have 50 of them open providing affordable food in areas of social deprivation as part of their commitment to cutting food waste and helping communities.
Of course, in today’s market, no brand would be worth its salt without people constantly talking about it.
That’s where the Greggs PR machine has helped.
In 2019, they responded to an online petition set up by Peta urging them to create a vegan sausage roll by doing precisely that and conveniently pissing off the right people in doing so.
Piers Morgan tried one on his former GMB show, spitting it into a bin and taking to Twitter to decry the new baked treat, claiming “nobody” was waiting for it.
He was wrong, of course. Sales of the vegan sausage rolls helped drive a surge in sales in 2019 and there were queues out of the door when it launched the vegan steak bake with everyone wanting to try one.
A similarly well-talked-about campaign promoting an exclusive Greggs Black Card also had a range of celebrities taking to social media to promote the brand.
British rapper Stormzy and singer Ed Sheeran were among those to be gifted a Concierge card by the bakery chain, and social media influencer LadBaby became the first person to inherit one.
Other campaigns of note include their bottomless Festive Bake brunch rolled out last year and reversing the sign of a shop in Newcastle so it reflected into the famous Fenwicks Christmas display, which is just pure genius.
But perhaps the biggest factor behind Greggs’ success is the fact that it has achieved what only a select number of brands ever do, which is an iconic status in Britain.
Not only do people enjoy its sausage rolls and coffees in the morning, but they also buy Greggs pyjamas and bucket hats from Primark, even swimming costumes.
As Dan Coatsworth, an analyst at investment platform AJ Bell put it, “Greggs has captured British hearts”.
If you can get people to wear your products as well as eat them, you know you’ve done something right.