The secret to Greggs success

What makes Greggs Award-winning?

Greggs is a brand known to many but hasn’t always been the choice of those seeking anything other than a sausage roll or a sticky bun.  This is something which is definitely changing though, and their transformational success has led to them winning the Marketing Week Masters – Brand of the Year in an awards ceremony held earlier this month.

Greggs have never suffered from lack of awareness when it comes to the brand – in fact in a recent survey one in five people recalled seeing an ad for the company in the previous two week period. The challenge they have faced, however, is consideration.  That is to say that many people didn’t see them as a brand which they would consider, most probably due to their association with the sale of what could be deemed ‘unhealthier’ bakery goods.

What is behind the Greggs turnaround?

CEO Roger Whitehead saw that something had to change in 2013 when they were faced with a colossal 30% drop in turnover.  It was a point at which drastic action was needed to secure the future of the business and he responded in a number of ways;

    1. He was adamant that they had to change the perception of the brand whilst not destroying the awareness which their core bakery products brought to the party
    2. He was determined to create a reputation for being more than just bakery goods, challenging markets with which they would previously never have been associated
    3. He questioned the function of Marketing within the business and, rather than simply increasing budget, gave them a bigger role in the future strategy
    4. He brought in a new Marketing Director to cover the ‘skills gap’ within the company, bringing experience in customer marketing and insight (perhaps the biggest factors in the phenomenal success of the vegan sausage roll?)

And the result?

Well, apart from being award-winning, Greggs is now the number two brand in the UK for breakfast, number three for the highly-contested category of coffee and they have overtaken Tesco for lunchtime sandwiches.  They are well on the way on their desired path to changing the perception of the brand – moving from bakery only to the wider category of ‘food on the go’.

It’s perhaps, therefore, hardly surprising that they have also increased sales by more than 12% year on year and have shown pre-tax profits which follow this same positive upward trajectory.

Looking to the future…

Greggs have shown that they have the ability to take a good hard look at their business and implement the necessary changes to turn things around.  They now seem to not only understand their own market, but also the aspirational markets they have within their sights.  Their introduction and very public launch of the vegan sausage roll also showed their ability to harness current trends and this insight looks to continue with their consideration of Click and Collect, Delivery and Electronic Kiosk options for the future.

Our take from this

This turnaround success to us illustrates what can happen when a brand takes a step back and really looks at where they sit in the landscape.  This was perhaps an easy step for Greggs to take because they were at a point where something had to be done, but they still showed great foresight in considering where they fell short, rather than simply doing more of what they knew they could do well.  This is all about understanding your brand, your market and your client base, but more than this it is about having the courage to make the necessary changes within your operation and move away from ‘business as usual’.

If you would like some help in getting to know more about your own audience and guidance on how better to engage with them then visit us at  We specialise in working with ambitious businesses and those who have a passion to grow, creating their very own success stories.