Pie-maker Greggs puts in offers on five stores in Belfast city centre
Pie king Greggs has already made offers on five stores in Belfast city centre as part of its huge expansion here, it can be revealed.
It comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed the bakery giant is eyeing as many as 50 locations across Northern Ireland, with around 10 in Belfast alone.
And five locations look set to be finalised soon, including at least one in the heart of Belfast.
They would be competing with well-established family bakeries, including Ashers on Royal Avenue and Jeffers.
Andrew Jeffers is a third generation family baker, with stores in Belfast and Lisburn.
He said "time will tell" what will happen, but he doesn't see the low-cost bakery as a direct competitor.
"It's all about where they are based," he said.
"I take comfort in us offering a better range. We would continue to do what we are doing, to produce high quality products."
And he said he hoped customers would stick to supporting independent and family-owned businesses.
His Jeffers home bakery business has been running for almost 80 years, and was first set up by William Jeffers in 1937.
He said: "We have always pushed the quality aspect. Greggs is mass-produced, whatever way they want to market themselves. We are a home bakery, making smaller batches."
And Donald McFetridge, retail analyst with the Ulster University, said the Greggs move here - which has been speculated about for more than a decade - "does not come as anything of a surprise".
"It was clear where they were heading with their venture when they toe-dipped the province at the M2 Applegreen site earlier this year," he said.
"Northern Ireland consumers will, no doubt - like their contemporaries across the water - sample and smile when they taste the merchandise on offer.
"Carb-hungry consumers will, I expect, flock to their stores as they do in other parts of Great Britain. They offer both savoury and sweet, in equal measure, under the one roof - unlike some of their competitors.
"What remains to be seen is whether or not they will sell any of their bread here.
"Bakeries fearful of the future may take some comfort in the fact that, while Greggs can certainly corner and capture the market for consumers keen for quick snacks, they sell very little bread."
Greggs has 1,670 stores located across Great Britain.
It is the UK's largest bakery chain, and it will soon be bringing its popular fare to Belfast and beyond.
Greggs would not confirm details of the company's expansion into Northern Ireland.