“We’ve got the award-winning vegan wrap which I have quite frequently and the vegan sausage roll which I’ll have about once a week, and now we have the sweet choice with the vegan sweet mince pie,” said CEO Roger Whiteside.

By Ian Horswill

Posted on November 19, 2019

A CEO, whose award-winning business specialises in fast food such as sausage rolls and meat pies, has revealed he has gone vegan and wants to see his business sell more vegan products.

Roger Whiteside, who has been CEO of Greggs for more than six years, said his workers at the largest bakery chain in the UK, are working on developing vegan versions of its best-selling meat products, to join its vegan sausage roll, which has become one of its top five sellers.

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Whiteside, who has seen Greggs open its 2,000th shop in the UK and lifted profit by 53% with a near 11% rise in like-for-like sales in the first half of the year revealed he became a vegan three weeks ago.

Whiteside said as he accepted his North East Business Executive of the Year award, that he decided to make changes in his diet.

“If you’d asked me three weeks ago which roll I preferred I would have said the original sausage roll, but I’m now attempting to live on a vegan diet,” he said.

“I was encouraged to watch a film on Netflix called The Gamechangers – I watched it and thought this is interesting.

“Obviously there are arguments based around animal welfare and the environment, but this was all about the health benefits, and I thought I should give it a go.

“Avoiding meat is easy. The problem is avoiding dairy, avoiding milk and cheese is almost impossible. It would be okay if I had time to cook, but I don’t, so I have to have things that are quick and easy.”

Whiteside said he’s making his way through Greggs’ vegan range, which the business is looking to expand, potentially adding vegan versions of other best-sellers like its steak bake.

“We’ve got the award-winning vegan wrap which I have quite frequently and the vegan sausage roll which I’ll have about once a week, and now we have the sweet choice with the vegan sweet mince pie,” he said.

Since taking on the CEO role he has made Greggs one of the biggest names in its sector of food-on-the-go and Whiteside credits the verbal abuse from UK TV host Piers Morgan at Greggs’ £1 vegan sausage roll as Greggs’ game changer.

“They came to see what all the fuss was about,” Whiteside told the Telegraph. “Among them were customers in the ‘weight and wellness’ category; previously sniffy about sausage rolls, they had never set foot in a Greggs before but, once through the doors, [they] loved its new healthy range. And – bonus! – everyone started buying the not-so-healthy stuff too. Suddenly, Greggs sausage rolls were an acceptable guilty pleasure.

“It has taken us by surprise,” Whiteside said. “We’re selling more pasties, sausage rolls, doughnuts and cakes than ever, as well as the healthy stuff like porridge.”

Even Hollywood actor Jake Gyllenhaal has revealed he’s a fan when he’s in town, but Whiteside says there is still a lot of work to do.

“It’s been seven years since I took over as CEO and we’ve spent all that time transforming the business in all sorts of ways, obviously refocusing the business away from traditional bakery to the growing food-on-the-go market. But really all that time has been spent on getting to the start line and what comes next for Greggs is to build on that platform to become truly multi-channel in a digital age.

“And there’s so much opportunity to do that, serving customers at all times of the day, everywhere, in every way they want when they’re looking for food and drink away from home.

“We’ve already started investing in these new channels – delivery of food, click and collect food, drive-thru lanes, food to order – all of those things are there to be developed by Greggs now.

“As well as being market-leaders in bakery, which you’d expect with our heritage, we’re becoming market leaders in areas you’d never have thought of. So we’re already well on the way.

“Put all those things together and what lies ahead is even more exciting than what we’ve achieved so far. There’s lots to look forward to.”

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