Wednesday 9 January 2019 8:54 am

Cherry on the cake: Greggs shares rise as baker lifts profit outlook for third time in a year

Greggs is on a roll, seeing off problems in the food sector which have hit competitors to up its profit guidance for the third time in less than a year today.

The chain said it now expects 2018 profits before tax of £88m, up from predictions of £86m in November.

The Newcastle-founded baker is celebrating its 80th year in 2019 while transforming into a food-to-go chain.

Sales increased 7.2 per cent on last year, with like-for-like sales in shops that the company directly manages up 2.9 per cent.

It opened 149 new shops, while closing 50 in a year when competitors in the food space were facing tough decisions.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen was forced to shut down 17 restaurants and strike new deals with landlords as it ran into financial problems in October.

Greggs chief executive Roger Whiteside said the company’s focus on food-to-go and a strong range of food and drinks has helped it whether problems

“We delivered a very strong finish to 2018 despite the well-publicised challenges in the consumer sector,” he said.

“In the year ahead, we will continue to innovate with products designed to reflect changing consumer tastes, and by opening in new locations that make Greggs even more accessible to customers.

“The investments that we are making in our supply chain will allow us to deliver the outstanding value and quality that Greggs is famous for across a growing shop estate.”

The baker is already riding high on a publicity storm kicked up by its vegan sausage roll, with shares up almost eight per cent over a week to a close of 1,367p yesterday.

Shares jumped a further seven per cent to 1,464p this morning.

The new pastry started trending on Twitter, helped by a tweet from TV host Piers Morgan who called the company “PC-ravaged clowns”, with Greggs replying: