Greggs has reported a big rise in annual profits helped by the launch of its new vegan ranges but warned of uncertainty ahead because of the potential impact of the coronavirus.
The bakery chain also said strong growth at the start of 2020 had been held back by storms affecting the UK in February.
Pre-tax profits for the year ending 28 December rose 31.1% to £108.3m during what chief executive Roger Whiteside described as an “exceptional year of progress” for the company.
Sales rose 13.5% to £1.17bn with a net 97 stores opening taking the total number of sites to more than 2,000.
Mr Whiteside said: “We made a very strong start to 2020 in January, but in February saw a significant slowdown in sales growth as a result of the storms that have affected the UK.
“There is some uncertainty in the outlook, particularly given the potential impact of coronavirus.
“This aside we expect to make year-on-year progress and will do so from a strong financial position.”
Mr Whiteside said Greggs had enjoyed rising customer visits during 2018, which then stepped up again last year “with the successful launch of our new vegan product lines”.
The chain launched a vegan sausage roll in January last year, followed earlier this year with a vegan steak bake.
Mr Whiteside said that while market conditions for general retailers, under pressure from rising costs and fragile consumer confidence, remained “very challenging”, the “food-on-the-go” sector was benefiting from high employment levels and growth in disposable incomes.
He added that Greggs was becoming less dependent on “shopping catchments” such as high streets and instead was seeing “more exposure to workplace and travel locations”.