Millennials and vegans driving health kick at Greene King
New boss Nick Mackenzie said he wants the next PM to be ‘pro-business’.
Pubs group Greene King is hoping to cash in on the growing popularity of veganism, as new boss Nick Mackenzie vowed to offer more vegan meals on menus.
He also said customers are looking for healthier options – driven by millennials – with sales of non or low-alcohol drinks up 50% compared with a year ago.
Mr Mackenzie, who is 55 days into the job, said: “It isn’t just millennials but on a wider basis consumer trends are shifting. Most of our menus have vegan options and healthy eating is a big part of it. The trend in veganism is one that will continue.”
The new chief, who joined from Madame Tussauds owner Merlin Entertainments, also said he hopes the new prime minister will be “pro-business” and understands the leisure industry and its challenges.
The news came as Greene King, which brews beers including Old Speckled Hen and Belhaven, said total sales grew 1.8% to £2.2 billion in the year to April 28, although pre-tax profits fell 12.6% to £172.8 million after a series of writedowns against its property portfolio.
Sales rose thanks to last year’s warm summer and the World Cup drawing in the crowds.
By comparison, Mr Mackenzie warned May and June of this year had been poor due to the wet, underwhelming weather.
Greene King, which has pub brands including Chef & Brewer, Hungry Horse and Farmhouse Inns, also revealed it had benefited from the closure of restaurants and drink-led pubs – with the number of licensed premises falling 2.3% in the year to March, according to researchers.
The company said sales in its drink-led pubs grew 3.4% in the financial year, with food-led premises growing just 1.6% on a like-for-like basis. Its restaurant businesses grew just 0.1%.
Trading up to premium brands continued to drive business, the company said, with gin remaining particularly popular.
However, with no men’s football World Cup or European Championship in 2019, bosses warned sales might not be as stellar this year as last – although Mr Mackenzie hopes to cash in on the women’s World Cup, screening matches in 1,100 pubs.
Mr Mackenzie said he will not provide an insight on his own strategy plans for the business until he is more settled, but did say he hopes the next prime minister will enable the industry to thrive.
He said: “The country is crying out for stability and certainty and hopefully the new prime minister will deliver that for us. We want a pro-business prime minister and a Government that understands the services sector, because we’re an important part of the economy.”
On Greene King’s preferred measure of profits – adjusted profits before tax – there was a 1.6% rise to £246.9 million.
Investors seemed pleased with the new boss’s first results, with shares rising 3.3% to 599.2p in early trading on Thursday.