The vegan meat craze has helped shares of Greggs surge 77% so far this year

Key Points
  • A vegan sausage roll just fired the UK's biggest bakery chain to a huge profit rise.
  • Greggs PLC said the first half of 2019 was an “exceptional trading performance."
  • The sausage roll is a hugely popular savory pastry snack in Britain.
A vegan sausage roll from a Greggs Plc sandwich chain outlet sits in a bag in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Wednesday, May. 15, 2019.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The success of a vegan sausage roll (a British savory pastry snack) has helped a U.K. bakery chain report a huge rise in profit and reward investors with a share dividend.

In interim results published Tuesday, Greggs described its "exceptional trading performance" in the first half of 2019 as having been helped by its best-selling vegan sausage roll.

The bakery created a social media storm at the beginning of the year when it said it was introducing a meat substitute-filled pastry roll which would use a fermented protein instead of traditional sausage meat.

It led to a debate on social media over whether the vegan product could, or should, be called a sausage roll — an outcome described as "a master class in public relations" by the marketing industry magazine PR Week.

A critical tweet from the TV presenter Piers Morgan only served to spark more interest.

According to Greggs data, the vegan-friendly snack is higher in protein than the meat version, has 2 grams less fat but contains 0.3 grams more salt.

The firm said Tuesday more traditional bakery items also sold well in the first half of 2019, alongside growth in Fairtrade-certified coffee, breakfast items and other new hot food options.

Britain's biggest bakery brand announced a 58% rise in underlying profit for the first half of 2019. During the same period the company recorded sales of £546 million ($664 million).

Investors in the firm received a 35 pence special dividend on top of an 11.9 pence ordinary pay out.

Greggs has opened 54 new shops and closed 23 across the U.K. so far in 2019. Its number of outlets across the U.K. is currently just below 2,000.

"We have continued to make strategic progress with our programmes of investment in infrastructure to support future growth and in developing the products and channels to market that will help achieve our ambition to be the customers' favourite for food-on-the-go," said Chief Executive Roger Whiteside.

Its share price has risen more than 77% year-to date, although the stock price slipped more than 5% Tuesday morning.

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