Just like The Beatles, the cheeky Northern brand has found itself in hot water for mentioning Jesus, but those folks sure know how to make – and sell – a sausage roll
Was there originally a Mr Gregg?
Actually, it was a real family affair. John Gregg inherited the egg and yeast firm in 1939 in Newcastle and, while he fought in World War II, his wife Elsie ran it, doing door-to-door delivery and diversified into confectionery. In 1964, his son Ian took over. Greggs is now the largest bakery chain in the UK and Britons buy five Greggs sausage rolls every second.
Are the sausage rolls that good?
Greggs pastries have “a gentle spiciness that slowly wraps around your taste buds… Not unpleasant but slightly bland” was the verdict from a recent taste test in Yeovil. They’re hardly artisanal – although they are baked in store on the day – but, costing around 95p and weighing in at 103g, they’re good value.
Why is Greggs so successful?
It does “the common uncommonly well”, says CEO Roger Whiteside, and analysts say it feels ‘Northern’ – marketing speak for authentic and friendly. Greggs also has a savvy marketing team. In 2014, Google’s algorithms went wrong, causing a parody Greggs logo to flash up, overlaid with the slogan: “Providing sh*t to scum for over 70 years.” Rather than issue writs, the company offered Google free doughnuts if they could fix the issue.
Hasn’t Greggs got into trouble too?
In 2017, in an image promoting a Greggs advent calendar, it replaced the baby Jesus with a sausage roll. The Evangelical Alliance said it was “manufacturing a scandal to sell baked goods”. Greggs apologised and the scandal blew over.
Is that the only scandal?
Greggs also angered consumers in 2015 when it stopped selling macaroni pies in Scotland. The decision was discussed in the Scottish parliament and a social media campaign #savethepie was launched – but to no avail.
Image problem, then?
Soldiers in the Royal Dragoon Guards in Catterick, Yorkshire, have been warned that “under no circumstances should they stand outside Greggs eating a pasty” because it makes them look unprofessional.
Is that because it’s making us all fat?
Greggs is repositioning itself as a “food-on-the-go” brand, adding healthy salads, porridge, a vegan Mexican bean wrap, oriental sticky rice with chicken, and chicken and butternut squash soup.
A bit sophisticated for Greggs punters?
Don’t be so sure – actor Jake Gyllenhaal eats Greggs baguettes when in the UK.
Greggs has a Farm Animal Welfare strategy in place and believes in ethical sourcing. To complement its classic sausage roll, the company recently launched a vegan version, which caused plenty of controversy/publicity and promptly sold out in some stores.