We’re retail-obsessed, so we perk right up when a brand is doing something different. And Greggs has been on our radar for a bit, because it’s one of the few big retail names which genuinely appeals to all demographics. Office types, construction workers, yummy mummies, cab drivers, Gen-Zers, baby boomers: your basic melting pot of humanity, all in one queue.
Once synonymous only with sausage rolls and pasties, Greggs has been named 2019 Brand of the year and is now number one in the lunch market and number two for breakfast – something the perma-queues outside the Greggs near Whippet HQ testify. So how is it doing it? And can this sweet spot of baking-based brilliance last? Let’s have a look…
Authentic quality at low prices
A tasty combo of economic uncertainty and a growing appetite for unpretentious, low-cost authenticity has certainly fuelled Greggs’ rise.
The Aldi and Lidl effect has proven that low price doesn’t necessarily mean low quality – and Greggs consistently offers good hot drinks and food-to-go, for a fair whack less than many of its rivals. Part of their USP is their price point, and they’re owning it.
Since CEO Roger Whiteside took over in 2013, Greggs has been on a trajectory of innovation.
First there’s the food. Seeing their main rivals as Starbucks and Pret, Greggs expanded their hot drinks and breakfast menu and repositioned the brand as ‘food to go’, rather than bakery products to take home. To cater for different lifestyle choices and customer needs they’re now creating more salad and health food options with a range all under 400 calories, plus they’re offering vegan versions of all their top sellers, and platters perfect for office meetings or picnics. And then, there’s *that* vegan sausage roll… (more on that shortly).
Catering to convenience
With nearly 2000 stores across the UK, Greggs is the country’s largest bakery. But with declining high street footfall, Whiteside and his team decided to focus new openings away from shopping centres, and nearer to workplaces and stations. And by extending opening hours in those locations until 11pm, they’re cannily luring in evening diners and late-night revellers, with hot food like pizza and chicken.
They’re winning in convenience digitally too. If the midnight munchies have taken hold, you can order for home delivery with Deliveroo and Just Eat. And for the time-poor, they’ve recently trialled click and collect breakfast.
Seems they’ve got all bases covered…
Here’s the fun part. Greggs’ mischievous charm has been PR-ing its way into the public consciousness for a few years now.
Back in January, their vegan sausage roll was a PR triumph. It was a response to an online petition by PETA, signed by 20,000, and helped to fame by Piers Morgan.
At every touchpoint, Greggs played a blinder. A YouTube ad parodied an iPhone commercial. Journalists were sent vegan sausage rolls in mock iPhone packaging. Stores sold Greggs Christmas jumpers. There was a debate about whether the vegan version could actually be called a ‘sausage roll’. And then this happened:
In their first week of launch, Greggs sold hundreds of thousands of the £1 wonders. They saw retail sales climb more than 10%, and profits jump by over 50% in the first half of this year.
Want another? Well, a few months earlier in November 2018, Greggs had photo-bombed the Christmas display of Fenwicks in Newcastle, by reversing their own sign opposite, so it reflected in the window. They’ve repeated the stunt this year, with the additional giveaway of 500 Christmas pasties to hungry shoppers waiting to see the Fenwicks festive windows unveiled.
Their PR team were clearly on a roll in 2018 – as Greggs also went undercover at a gourmet food festival in May, posing as artisan delicatessen ‘Gregory and Gregory’. It was all to launch their summer food offering, and unsuspecting festival goers were very impressed by the tapas-style delicacies.
And who could forget the sausage roll nativity? Greggs got into a heap of trouble (and generated tonnes of attention) by creating an advent calendar that featured this picture. They were forced to apologise, but the image spread across social media like wildfire… spreading Greggs’ name with it.
Funny, engaging social
Talking of social media, Greggs is doing rather well on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They’re funny, with a very British tone of voice, and their content is skilfully timely.