Fantastic muffins ! How Greggs the bakers keep on winning

Greggs The Bakers is tackling the recession by launching new product lines and re-launching some old favourites... as well as a new ad campaign featuring comic Paddy McGuinness. But can marketing boss Scott Jefferson get them through these dark days?

Today there is no shortage of ‘food on the go’ outlets to choose from on UK high streets as the tempting aromas of Subway, Pret A Manger, McDonalds, Burger King etc invade your nostrils aiming to entice you zombie-like into their stores. But, chances are, as you look around at the array of food outlets now available to you at lunchtime, the one shop which, no doubt, has the longest queue of eager sandwich and sausage roll lovers is Greggs The Bakers.

From its roots in Gosforth, Newcastle, Greggs The Bakers has today become an institution across the north of England and Scotland. After a rapid expansion phase during the 80’s and 90’s, the business now boasts some 1,409 shops across the UK with a workforce of some 19,000 people. The financial year to December 31, 2008, saw Greggs plc turnover £628m, deliver a pre-tax profit of £45m and in the first three months of 2009 Greggs has been able to report a growth in annual sales of 3.2 percent.

So, are the no-nonsense sandwich, sausage roll and pasty ultimately winning the fast food battle on the high street in the recession?

“If you look at the sheer number of ‘food on the go’ outlets now available on the high street it is at an unprecedented level, but the recession may see a shake-up of that,” says Scott Jefferson, director of marketing at Greggs The Bakers, which has recently released its latest TV ad campaign starring comedian Paddy McGuinness through Propaganda.

Despite the challenges all food retailers are facing in these tough times, Jefferson, who joined Greggs in 2004, remains in buoyant mood. He says: “We are very well placed for the recession as people still need to eat and if we can offer them real value for money then we will prosper in this marketplace. That said, you have to be careful how you define value for money because it is not just about price. When you sell food on the go it is really important you reassure people on quality and innovation.

“The campaign we have recently launched is a great example of this. We have just launched a new range of muffins that are absolutely the best in the marketplace and they are literally half the price you would pay in a coffee shop. The phrase that best sums up the Greggs brand is ‘affordable quality’. So, we now have these fantastic muffins, we are re-launching our sandwich range and we have re-launched our cheese and onion pasty. It is all about raising the bar for ingredient quality and food enjoyment and giving it a contemporary twist.”

As a brand Greggs is an interesting one and often divides opinion. On one hand you have Greggs devotees, or ‘sleeping shoppers’ as Greggs refers to them, who go to Greggs everyday and choose the same thing every visit. Then there are those who may cock their noses up at Greggs and opt for what is perceived as a higher class of sarnie from places such as Pret A Manager.

But as Jefferson says, accurately defining Greggs customer base is a difficult task: “We are a classic mass market brand. We actually have a great photograph which demonstrates this. It’s a photo of a queue at our Glasgow Airport store and in the queue you have white van man next to an airline pilot next to a shop assistant and so on and that really sums Greggs up. We appeal across the spectrum.”

“We define our customers behaviourally more so. Our core market is the ‘snack and graze’ market, but with our new muffin range we are appealing more now to what we call the ‘flavour savours’, whereas the cheese and onion pasties appeal more to our typical ‘snack and graze’ customer.”

Since joining Greggs in 2004 Jefferson has built up an internal marketing team and also pulled together a roster of agencies that include Propaganda and Gratterpalm in Leeds, MediaVest Manchester and Golley Slater for PR across the UK, all of which he says have provided a fantastic service to keep the Greggs brand moving forward.

Building

“As a marketer you always have to be looking short term and long term. For me there is a long term inherent to building the brand, but short term you have to compete tactically. For me the measurements for a short term campaign are based around how many redemptions we get, what percentage were new and occasional customers, did they go on to repeat purchase, did the promotion ultimately pay back? The metrics about the long term stuff are based around did people see the ads, did we grow brand awareness, have we increased trial and future purchases and what you find is when we launch a campaign like this one, because it has both these elements, then in the round you accomplish most of these things.

“Within the campaign we have online advertising and we tend to weight that towards morning and lunchtime. Then running throughout the campaign are the micro-sites, so if you go online you can see all the ads and we also have fun things like Scamp’s Blog and Scamp’s Twitter as in the ad you see him going off to the Doggy boot camp. Again, I think there is more we could do digitally, but we have made huge strides in that area in recent years.”

While the future is uncertain for most sectors, what is not uncertain is that people will always eat sandwiches. That said, ensuring that people eat Greggs sandwiches is where Jefferson’s main battle lies, as he explains: “From a marketing perspective our biggest challenge is to build the brand in the southern half of England to be as strong as it is in the north of England and Scotland. The metrics we have in the north and Scotland are just fantastic and that has happened naturally over time. People have a deep-rooted affinity for the Greggs brand and we have a high penetration. In London and the south we have around 300 shops, but we still haven’t scratched the surface yet. They don’t love our brand yet in the south, but we’re working on that.”

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