Belfast Telegraph

Greggs opens another Belfast outlet as healthier range boosts sales to £422m

By John Mulgrew

Greggs is opening another shop in Belfast as the cheap pie and buns business increased its sales to £422m.

But while it has made its name in 80p sausage rolls and pasties, it was its healthier range which helped sales rise.

Falafel and hummus helped power sales at Greggs in the first half of the year, with the sausage roll-maker reaping the rewards of a wider range of healthy eating options.

Revenues were up 6% while like-for-like sales in the period rose 3.8%, driven by the baker's Balanced Choice menu, which also includes teriyaki chicken noodle salad, the UK-wide business said.

And it can now be revealed that Greggs will add its latest store at Castle Lane in Belfast city centre.

The location had originally been earmarked for a second Ed's Easy Diner restaurant.

Last year the Belfast Telegraph revealed the bakery giant is eyeing as many as 50 locations across Northern Ireland, with around 10 in Belfast alone. Greggs has 1,670 stores located across the UK.

It opened its first city centre store earlier this summer.

And while the Royal Avenue store has been in business for several months, next door neighbour Bravissimo cooked up a storm after it objected to having the cafe and budget pasty chain as a neighbour, with concerns over the smell of sausage rolls and pies wafting into the lingerie shop and affecting business.

Greggs has also earmarked three other locations in Belfast. That includes what will become its head offices at Donegall Square West.

Planning applications have also been submitted for locations at Duncrue Industrial Estate and the Kennedy Centre in west Belfast.

Greggs has already opened a new outlet at Boucher Road and launched its first store at the Applegreen service station on the M2 in April last year, with others at new service stations soon following.

Speaking about the latest results, chief executive Roger Whiteside said that Greggs intends to ramp up its healthy eating options, with new soups and packets of nuts and fruit to be introduced in the autumn.

"There will be new soups and we're going to revamp our snack range, going own-label on crisps and introducing nuts and fruits packets. We'll also see the first gluten-free products launch in the second half of the year," he said.

Earlier this year, Mr Whiteside revealed that he is considering branching out even further from traditional Greggs staples of sausage rolls and doughnuts into Mexican food, and potentially even sushi, in the next few years. He added that the firm is "alert" to any Brexit-induced changes that may occur in consumer sentiment over the coming months.

"There's no sign of any impact yet, but if demand is affected we are alert and ready to react," he said.

"In a downturn, customers will be looking for more value, meal deals and that sort of thing, so we will make sure we tailor the offer to meet those conditions. We'll have to control our costs too, but it won't affect our investment programme."

Pre-tax profits for the first six months of the year were broadly flat, at £25.3m, held down by exceptional charges linked to the closure of three bakery sites.

Greggs has remained tight-lipped about its expansion plans in Northern Ireland, and has continually refused to elaborate on the number of stores it's opening, or their locations.

Belfast Telegraph