It's synonymous with sausage rolls and sugar-laden doughnuts, but Greggs has been on a somewhat transformative journey over the past three years as it tries to move beyond being seen as a bakery occasionally visited as a treat to a food-on-the-go brand that can cater to breakfast, lunch and (of course) snacking.
But with consumer concern at an all-time high when it comes to high fat and sugar products, it was inevitable that the sausage roll king would have to bring more healthy options into the mix.
And it seems to be working. The 'Balanced Choices' range now counts for in excess of 10 per cent of sales. According to its last set of financial results, Greggs said its low-calorie options were generating sales of more than £1m a week.
The Drum caught up with Graeme Nash, head of customer and marketing at Greggs, to find out more.
The perception of the Greggs brand seems to have changed a lot in the past few years as you've added more healthy options to the menu and are now looking at products such as sushi. Why has that been important to Greggs and where it sees its future on the high street?
In recent years we made the decision to refocus our strategy to transform the business from a traditional bakery to a modern, attractive food-on-the-go retailer bringing about significant changes to the quality and relevance of our product offering. We know that our customers love the freshly baked taste of a sausage roll, just as they enjoy an occasional doughnut. However, we understand that eating habits are changing and as a responsible retailer, we’re changing too.
Food-on-the-go is a growing and competitive market.
Our journey as a business and a brand has been about repositioning Greggs’ strong and trusted 77 year heritage to a leading food-on-the-go brand offering great tasting freshly prepared products for instant consumption, rather than take-home bakery options.
We know that to continue to grow the brand we need to attract new customers whilst encouraging our existing customers to shop with us more frequently, and to spend more when they do.
As a result, our product range is continually evolving to provide more choice, including our Balanced Choice range which offers sandwiches, salads, soups, yoghurt, porridge, fruit pots and drinks – all of which are under 400 calories and meet green or amber on the Food Standards Agency traffic light system for fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar. We encouraging customers to make healthier food on-the-go choices and, importantly, we’ve achieved this without compromising on taste.
Sales of our Balanced Choice range are growing strongly and now account for more than 10 per cent of our total sales, signifying more of our customers are recognising the quality, range and value we offer in these healthier food choices.
Our aim is to have more than 2,000 shops and we are investing in new shop openings as well as refurbishing our existing estate. Convenience and trading hours are key drivers so we’re focused on being in the right location for the future, in the destinations that people work, travel and are generally on-the-go.
What role has marketing played in supporting this?
Throughout all of our campaigns we use insight and listen to our customers on a daily basis. Understanding who our customer is, the audience we are trying to target and what motivates their purchasing decisions underpins everything that we do and helps us to form our targeting strategies.
Health is a huge driver for us moving forward and as part of this our marketing activity has a continual role to play, both in building awareness around Balanced Choice and bringing customers through the door that may not usually consider Greggs as a healthier food-on-the-go destination.
Whilst we continue to invest in above-the-line channels to reach wider audiences when they are on-the-go, we also recognise the value of continually engaging our target audiences through our earned and owned channels including PR, digital, social and through our in shop communications.
Our campaigns throughout the year make sure that there is an integration and synergy across all of our marketing touchpoints. What works well is when we introduce an element of surprise and delight and do something the public may not expect from Greggs – a great example of this was our Nappuccino event in London earlier this year.
We have significant followings on social media which is where our fan base is and as such this is a rich source of information to help form some of our product decisions going forward.
Can you share internal metrics on brand health and perception and how they've changed over time?
We measure and track perceptions and brand awareness through our internal brand tracker and via external agencies. Spontaneous brand awareness is growing with a high recall on freshness, quality and health whilst maintaining our value proposition. Customer satisfaction is also increasing which is something that we monitor very closely.
Despite this work, do you think Greggs will always be known as the 'sausage roll' brand?
We are proud of our heritage and because we’ve been selling sausage rolls for decades it is definitely something that we are famous for. Increasingly however, customers are now coming to us for food-on-the-go products, including breakfast and freshly ground coffee and these are things we are becoming much more recognised for.
Through our Balanced Choice range we are also now offering customers many healthier options for breakfast, lunch and snacking too. Our brand is changing just as the tastes, needs and demands of our customers are and will continue to do so in the future.
Can you talk about what you're doing in terms of digital? How has the Greggs Rewards app been performing and contributing to sales?
This year we launched a new improved website as well as a refresh of our Greggs Rewards app.
We’ve made sure that by streamlining the app we can offer tasty incentives for customers as well as making shopping across our 1,700 shops quicker and easier without the need to carry a wallet or separate loyalty card. Users can pay directly for purchases through a smartphone with PayPal, Apple Pay, by preloading money on to their account or with cash, debit/credit card.
Membership has grown quickly since launch of the improved app and this will help us to understand consumer needs better whilst rewarding loyal customers.
We have offered a number of rewards to both new and existing customers since it’s relaunch including our ongoing coffee offer, free breakfast via a top-up with £10, free PayPal lunch offer as well as a free bottle of Lucozade Zero.
What can we expect from Greggs for the coming year as it looks to continue this journey?
We have some very exciting new products launching in autumn so we'll be investing in supporting those through various marketing channels. We can’t reveal what the products are just yet, but they are not necessarily what you might expect from Greggs. We like to follow food trends that our customers enjoy whilst applying a Greggs twist.