Forget avocado toast, it's all about coconut porridge: Pret A Manger sales jump

Emma Haslett
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Coconut Porridge is the new avocado toast... (Source: Getty)

Pret A Manger sales hit another record in 2016 as its customers went berserk for coconut porridge - and were rewarded with 1.7m free coffees.

The figures

The cafe chain said sales rose 15 per cent to £776.2m in the year to the end of December, with like-for-like sales rising 4.8 per cent.

It opened 50 new shops (31 of which were in the UK), bringing its total up 11 per cent to 444, while US sales rose 14 per cent, rising above $200m (£155m) for the first time. Some 16 per cent of sales are now from shops in airports and train stations.

Here's the important bit: it sold 16m croissants last year, making it its most popular product. Almost 60 per cent of sales now fall outside lunchtime "as eating habits shift to healthy snacking", while 18 per cent of sales came from products launched in the last year.

It added it donated three million food items to charity during 2016, while the Pret Foundation Trust raised £1.8m. Its employees gave away 1.7m free cups of coffee as part of its "random acts of kindness" scheme.

Why it's interesting

Pret A Manger may be a firm favourite of the chattering classes, but it is not immune to the Brexit effect: since the EU referendum, it has repeatedly warned it may have trouble recruiting if EU immigration is curbed. The company even went as far as to suggest unpaid internships for British teens might be a solution to fill the shortage - which it quickly rowed back on after the idea was roundly criticised.

For now, though, its expansion outside the UK is going well, with nine stores opening in the US in 2016, alongside five in France, three in Hong Kong, one in Shanghai and one in Dubai. Its increased focus on transport hubs is also proving a smart move: it now has two stores in Penn Station.

And its move into even healthier ingredients is also proving popular: its decision to open two Veggie Pret stores in the capital prompted the launch of 45 new meat-free recipes, while sales of dairy-free coconut milk-based products not only exceeded soya for the first time, but meant Coconut Porridge accounted for one in five porridge sales in the UK.

And with the government proposing so-called barista visas for the hospitality sector, it may be that the company's much-vaunted skills shortage won't come to pass. Bring on the coconut porridge...

What Pret A Manger said

CEO Clive Schlee said:

We look forward to opening our 500th Pret shop in the next 12 months and furthering our measured expansion in both existing and new markets. We will of course continue to focus on the essentials: menu innovation and the quality of our ingredients, opening new shops in top class locations around the world, and above all, recruiting and engaging our wonderful teams.

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