Geordie John Gregg started £1billion bakery empire Greggs by delivering bread on council estates

Geordie John Gregg started £1billion bakery empire Greggs by delivering bread on council estates

IT all started with bread delivered by bike. Now, 80 years later, bakery chain Greggs is a £1billion empire.
But how did it all start? We’ve gone through the archives to find nostalgic pictures of Greggs, its staff and its baked buns through the years to show just how much it’s changed.
Greggs This was how a Greggs used to look back in the day when a sausage roll used to cost just 16p
Becoming a billion-pound empire is something its Geordie founder, John Gregg, could never have imagined when he started delivering bread, yeast and eggs to working-class mining families in 1939.
Sadly, the businessman never got to see his empire rise like the loaves he made.
He died aged 55 from lung cancer with just one shop in Gosforth, near Newcastle, in 1964.
But his legacy lives on thanks to his family, who took the business from small town bakery to high street staple.
Now, Greggs has 1,953 shops across the UK, has more than £1billion of sales a year and provides on-the-go treats to millions of hungry Brits.
Here, we reveal how the bakery chain stayed relevant over the decades – and how it went from a small shop in Newcastle to a sausage roll empire.
One man and his bike (and his baps)
Greggs The first Greggs in Gosforth, Newcastle, opened in 1951
Greggs John Gregg ran one shop in Gosforth until he died in 1964
Greggs The first fleet of Greggs delivery vans in the 1950s
John Gregg was just 14 when he joined the family egg and yeast business, delivering goods by bike to working-class mining families on estates in Newcastle.
By the age of 30, he started delivering baked goods and confectionery too.
It wasn’t long before he swapped the bike for a van with a picture of a swiss roll on one side and a sandwich cake on the other, according to his son Ian Gregg, who wrote about the family business in his 2013 memoir Bread: The Story of Greggs.
The bakery deliveries were put on hold during the Second World War, which Gregg fought in.
But when he returned, it was business as usual.
Greggs has been around for 80 years
Greggs You can see how Greggs famous biscuits used to look in this snap
Greggs Back in the day, Greggs focused on selling bread to take home
Greggs Uniforms have changed over the years
In 1951, he set up his first shop: Greggs of Gosforth, which he bought for a mere £7,750.
There’s still a Greggs on Gosforth high street to this day.
The shop became a favourite in the neighbourhood in just two years, and by the time Gregg died of lung cancer in 1964, the business turned over £70,000 and employed 15 people.
But his son, Ian, had grander visions for the business.From bakes on bikes to sausage roll mania
Hulton Archive – Getty Ian Gregg, pictured in 1983, took over the business after his father died
Greggs Archive photos reveal how Greggs changed over the years
Greggs Shelves full of baked products at a Greggs store generations ago
Turning his back on his training as a solicitor, Ian went into the family trade and started opening shops across the north of England and in Scotland.
The chain expanded too quickly, though, and there was a time when the business was on shaky ground.
But it pulled through, and by 1983 – the year Ian stepped down as managing director – Greggs had grown from one shop to 300.
A year later, the business became a listed company on the London Stock Exchange.
The bakery chain had been supporting struggling local communities it was based on for years already, but it cemented its charitable efforts by setting up the Greggs Trust, which became the Greggs Foundation.
Greggs There have been queues outside branches of Greggs for decades
Greggs Do you remember when Greggs used to look like this?
Alamy Greggs took over the Bakers Oven chain in 1994
Greggs Some old Greggs products from the early 2000s including bigger sausage rolls and ham sandwiches
It’s still going to this day and has opened more than 400 breakfast clubs in primary schools in poorer areas of the country.
Greggs was already a formidable presence on the high street but it became ubiquitous in 1994 when it took over the Bakers Oven brand, buying up 424 stores.
Now, Greggs had 980 shops across the country – and it just kept growing.
These days it has a huge 1,953 branches and the chain has just topped £1billion sales.How Greggs conquered the UK one steak bake at a time
PA:Press Association Roger Whiteside is the current boss of Greggs
Greggs is run by Roger Whiteside, who became managing director in 2013.
He’s kept the brand relevant by phasing out take-home bakery products such as loaves of bread and scones, and focusing more on “on-the-go” items such as sandwiches, salads and, of course, sausage rolls.
His strategy has worked.
Total revenues for 2018 rose 7.2 per cent to £1.03bn, while pre-tax profits climbed to £83m from £72m in 2017.
And it hasn’t happened by accident.
Getty – Contributor Sausage rolls remain one of the best-loved products sold at Greggs
Roger Whiteside told BBC Today that “millions of pounds” had been spent on transforming perception of the brand.
“2018 was a year that tested the resilience of Greggs’ business model and demonstrated the benefits of our strategic investment programme.
“Whilst there are significant uncertainties in the months ahead, Greggs has started 2019 in great form, helped in part by the publicity surrounding the launch of our vegan-friendly sausage roll.”
Greggs made a billion pounds in 2018 and Chief Exec Roger Whiteside says the vegan sausage roll has helped 2019 get off to a banger
Independent retail expert, Richard Hyman, told The Sun that Greggs remains successful because it knows exactly who its audience is.
He said: “I think that they know exactly who they are, exactly what they’re really good at and they put all their efforts in getting better at what they’re good at and avoiding getting sucked into doing other things.”
He added: “The common thread running through what is now a relatively small number of successful businesses – whether it’s Primark, Aldi, B&M Home Bargains or Greggs – is that they have all got a very clear identity.”Not always having a loaf
Greggs Greggs caused a bit of controversy when they replaced Jesus with a sausage roll in an advent calendar
Not everyone is a fan of the cheap and cheerful chain.
The business has had its fair share of controversy over the years.
In 2014, an offensive logo saying that Greggs sold “s*** to scum for over 70 years” appeared on Google searches.
Three years later, we revealed that some of its products contained much less meat than you might expect.
In response, Greggs said its food is free from artificial colours, flavours and hydrogenated fats, and has no added trans fats, and it makes “great quality, delicious tasting food”.
That same year, it offended religious customers when it replaced Jesus with a sausage roll on a Greggs-themed advent calendar.
On a (sausage) roll – and what’s coming next
Greggs Gregg’s new vegan sausage roll sold out in stores across the country when it launched earlier this year
Greggs is bucking the trend for retailers struggling on the high street and the chain is here to stay.
Its success is something that John Gregg could never have imagined when he started delivering bread by bike all those years ago.
We wonder what he’d make of the chain’s new vegan sausage roll – something he could never have dreamed of.
So what’s next for Greggs?
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Mr Whiteside said the business is now “looking to move into the evening food market” after Greggs trialled an evening menu across 100 UK stores.
The success of the plant-based pastry could see more vegan products on the menus soon too.
Last year, the chain sparked fears it was going hipster when it launched a vegan wrap.
Watch this space.
Greggs announce new vegan sausage roll following ‘high demand’

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