How Greggs united a divided foodie nation
Blending a clever launch strategy with a healthy dose of hype, Greggs took plant-power mainstream in 2019 with the launch of its vegan sausage roll.
In 2018, animal rights group PETA launched a petition calling for the launch of a vegan version of Greggs’s hugely popular sausage roll. After the petition attracted 20,000 signatures, the high street bakery chain decided that the time was right to go vegan.
First, Greggs knew it had a potential credibility problem among vegans and vegetarians, after being known chiefly for its meaty on-the-go food options to date.
Furthermore, there was a crowded market to consider. In 2018, the UK launched more new vegan products than any other nation. Participation in Veganuary (where consumers go vegan for the month of January), also grew by 183% compared with the previous year.
On the flipside, Greggs was firmly rooted in the mainstream, where veganism could still often be treated with some suspicion.
With all these factors in mind, Greggs knew that its communications strategy needed to go beyond a vegan product launch to create mainstream fame and product advocacy that would drive demand.
The primary business objective was to create unprecedented national demand for a limited-edition product, with a target market that needed to stretch well beyond the vegan audience. Essentially, the Greggs vegan sausage roll needed positioning as something much bigger than just another vegan product, with a campaign that would connect with people on both sides of the dietary divide.
The communications team needed to leverage what Greggs represented in British culture and present the new product as a defining cultural moment – the moment veganism went mainstream.
With this in mind, the campaign launched with an irreverent parody of an Apple product launch, pitched as ‘The next generation of sausage roll technology’.
The new product was distributed to the media in iPhone-style boxes, complete with sleek video brochures and accompanied by a strategic PR campaign that placed it right at the centre of Veganuary 2019.
Positive reviews from vegan influencers, as well as national broadcasters and presenters, helped spread the word and brought the two apparent divides together.
Demand was huge, with the vegan sausage roll quickly becoming Greggs’s fastest selling new product in the last five years. PR coverage reached 69% of UK adults over 11 times. Organic Twitter reach hit 24 million, with the launch film watched 8 million times (82.5% unpaid views).
Greggs’s share of voice against competitors McDonald’s, KFC, Costa and Subway during launch week was its highest ever at 71%, up from 17%. The brand’s social community grew by 23% and social engagement in January 2019 out-performed the whole of 2018.
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Awareness reached its highest level since 2012 (up 13%) and, according to the YouGov BrandIndex, customer perception and positive sentiment rose by 8.2%. In fact, 90% of customers said the vegan sausage roll launch had positively changed brand perceptions and 80% of customers stated they would now shop with Greggs more.
In October 2019, Greggs was named Marketing Week’s Master Awards Brand of the Year, seeing off competition from the likes of Cadbury, Ikea, Nationwide and Netflix. The vegan sausage roll campaign was also shortlisted for Marketing Week’s 2019 Campaign of the Year in December.
In the seven weeks to 16 February 2019, Greggs’s total sales grew by 14.1% and like-for-like sales increased by 9.6%, supported by extensive publicity surrounding the vegan sausage roll launch. Since then the bakery chain has launched a vegan steak bake and chief executive Roger Whiteside even announced he was going vegan.