Having begun 2020 with the launch of a new award-winning vegan steak bake and its first vegan doughnut, Greggs’ product development plans came to an abrupt stop as shops were closed and its teams were put on furlough.
But now the high street bakery chain has recommenced activities for creating new product introductions once customer restrictions are lifted and demand conditions improve. And that is driving investment in two areas of equipment in particular – coffee machines and hot food displays.
“Our ambition to be the nation’s favourite brand for food-on-the-go requires us to offer a varied menu suited to all times of the day – breakfast, lunch and dinner,” says CEO Roger Whiteside.
“Our strategy remains to add to our existing credentials for freshly prepared, great value, great tasting bakery food by building our reputation for product categories with growing demand in the market.
“The addition of new digital channels strengthens our ability to test new product areas and avoid some of the maturity costs in gaining customer support for products not already associated with our brand.”
Mr Whiteside said that strategic areas of opportunity include its coffee menu, which will be extended this year alongside the rapid roll out of its fully-tested new coffee machine improving speed, quality and range options.
Hot food also remains a key area of focus both for self-selection in its shop fronts and increasingly from behind the counter for delivery, he said.
“The combination of these two opens the opportunity for development of our offer to compete in later day trading which we tested in trial shops last year and will see further extension.”
The growing trend for greater dietary choice shows no signs of slowing, added Mr Whiteside. “With two successful new vegan-friendly lines introduced last year we will once again be adding to our existing range, offering vegan-friendly versions of our best-selling lines.”
Interest in healthier food choices is driving the company’s standards in the provision of information to customers to enable them to make informed choices.
It has now completed successful trials in preparation for the requirement to move to full labelling of sandwiches made in shops, which is due later this year.
And product improvements will see it make further progress with salt, fat, sugar and calorie targets alongside continued progress in its animal welfare standards.
“Since 2016 we have removed 20% of the sugar from our pastries, yoghurts, biscuits and cakes and, over the coming four years, will reduce the calories and salt in a third of our products to make sure that they meet or exceed the recommendations of Public Health England,” said Whiteside. “The options for customers will be further increased when we trial custom ordering for sandwiches through digital channels later in the year.”
In 2020, Greggs opened 84 new shops (including 35 franchised units) and closed 56, growing the estate to 2,078. The company still believes it can reach 3,000 units.