Who, what, where, when, why, how…do I even get one of these things?
As we look back at January 2019, the first month of the year already flown by, it is clear that despite the troubled times we live in, it was only really about one thing. The Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll.
The vegan product of the year (so far) and surely the most hyped vegan product release there has ever been in the UK. So, what was all the fuss about? How did this niche product become Greggs’ fastest-selling new release in 6 years and a trending topic on Twitter?
Who? Greggs, the bakers.
What? Vegan. Sausage. Rolls.
Where? 900 branches nationwide.
When? Veganuary – when else?
Why? PETA’s petition for a Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll.
How? Find a local branch that stocks them and get there as early as you can.
Origins & Development
After years of rumours, this month Greggs finally announced and released a vegan version of their beloved sausage roll. A leaked email at the beginning of December set people’s hopes up that finally PETA’s petition for this very thing – signed by over 20,000 people – was to be answered by the bakery chain.
Greggs has been introducing vegan products to their range for the last couple of years including a bean wrap and a Belgian bun. The wrap won Best Vegan Sandwich in PETA’s Vegan Food Awards 2018 but is exactly the kind of thing that I wouldn’t buy unless desperate. Even as a vegan, if I’m in Greggs it’s because I want carbs and grease, not beans and greens, and the sausage roll is the first real move towards veganising a staple of Greggs core offering.
Greggs describe their vegan sausage roll as ‘96 layers of light and crisp puff pastry’ wrapped around their ‘bespoke Quorn filling’. Quorn have said for years that their entire range will eventually become vegan so this seems like a promising collaboration.
You’d think Veganuary would go hand in hand with everyone’s short-lived healthy eating resolutions so releasing a sausage roll – and a vegan one at that – seems a bold move.
However, if you’d asked most vegans beforehand they could easily have predicted how popular it would be. We may not eat animals but we sure go hunting for the growing number of vegan products that have been trickling into shops over the last few years, eagerly sharing our trophy photos online.
The difference with this particular product was the PR campaign that came with it, due to the fact that such a mainstream company released it. The promotional video parodied Apple’s signature style – gaining an impressive five million views on social media – and press samples were sent out in mock iPhone packaging.
This tongue in cheek approach keeps things light-hearted, showing that Greggs understand how excited vegans are at the prospect of a high-street takeaway option that is demonstrably not ‘rabbit food’.
This quote from Sara Collinge, Managing Director at Don’t Cry Wolf via PRWeek sums it up perfectly:
“This isn’t just about a sausage roll. This is the democratisation of vegan food…Greggs has tackled the three major challenges people report when trying to eat more plant-based food: accessibility, price and convenience”
900 out of their 1,850 bakeries were initially stocked – Greggs even provided a list, that never happens – but within a week the company announced that the vegan sausage roll would soon be rolled out to every outlet.
Rather predictably, the same old curmudgeons who manufacture outrage for a living were out in force to protest over a pastry, in the same old ways they always do. Thanks for the promotion, Piers.
Everyone else was broadly positive as vegans and non-vegans alike got caught in the frenzy to nab an elusive sausage roll before they sold out at 11 am. Ultimately it shows that veganism has gone pretty mainstream recently as the country embraces more a plant-based diet, and some of these old guys are put out about it.
Okay, so does it actually live up to all this hype?
Tastes exactly like a sausage roll. A herby, well-seasoned filling with a buttery pastry case that is really satisfying to eat. It does get a bit salty by the end, so if you eat the whole thing you’ll definitely want a drink close to hand.
Very much a sausage-meat style filling, quite reminiscent of a Linda McCartney sausage. Crispy puff pastry that doesn’t flake too much and is moist without being overly greasy.
Value for money?
Yes. £1 for a specially formulated vegan recipe of their most famous product, they could have charged up to £5 and most vegans I know (myself included) would still have queued up to try it at least once.
I’ve had one hot out the oven, completely cooled and lukewarm. I liked it the most lukewarm as the flavours and textures came through the best.
Compared to the original Greggs sausage roll there’s not much difference but generally, the stuff you’d want to be lower – calories, salt, saturated fat – is lower in the vegan version and the protein content is slightly higher (2.9g more per 100g). Greggs have even managed to bust the vegan protein myth.
Will I personally be rushing out every day to buy one? Well, no. My nearest branch doesn’t stock it yet for one thing but also, it is just a vegan sausage wrapped in vegan pastry, neither of which are too hard to find believe it or not. Linda McCartney has been selling delicious plant-based sausage rolls in supermarkets for years in fact and you can even make your own quite easily. I am glad it’s there as an option for the vegan community and it sure did get people excited/angry/talking.
We can’t go back to a time before Greggs injected the word ‘vegan’ straight into the heart of mainstream British culture and opened the Pandora’s box of its effect, both good and bad. It took it’s most beloved pastry and perverted it into a weird vegan product. It’s doesn’t take too much mental gymnastics to understand how some people got so upset over a sausage roll (if we dare actually call it that).
For vegans, it is a beacon of hope in a world that can be very resistant to change. Greggs did something daring and potentially risky because this is more than a sausage roll. It is an acceptance of veganism into the wider public mindset and a genuine step towards positive change.
Greggs, I thank you.
* UPDATE: MARCH 2019 *
Greggs announced on Twitter on the 8th March that the vegan sausage roll would be available nationwide. A two-month turnaround from initial release to meeting the overwhelming demand is pretty impressive work.
And despite me saying above that I wouldn’t be rushing out to buy them all the time, my boyfriend and I have discovered that they make the perfect little snack on the weekends and have found ourselves at Greggs for the last three Sundays. However, I can’t seem to muster any regret about that at all.
Long live the vegan sausage roll!
Some recent further reading:
- New Greggs ‘Vegan Sausage Roll Locator‘ (Gregg’s website)
- Greggs confirms date its vegan sausage will launch in all 1,950 stores (Vegan Food & Living)
Launchof vegan sausage roll a revelation says Greggs’ boss, as he receives OBE (This Is Money)
- Greggs vegan sausage roll boosts sales (BBC)