Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. Food & Drink
2 January 2020updated 25 Jul 2021 1:15pm

The highs and lows of the Greggs vegan steak bake

On one hand, it’s an extremely delicious plant-based snack. On the other, the timing of its release is a disappointment. 

By Indra Warnes

It is that time of year again: new year, new me, new veganised version of a classic Greggs product.

Just as the Christmas period has come to be intertwined with a cutesy John Lewis advert, 2 January is now The Day of the Vegan – particularly those vegans partial to baked goods.

Last year saw the bakery chain-come-national treasure seize upon Veganuary, a month in which the more carnivorous among us attempts to forego any animal-based produce. Back then, to much excitement and queues across the country, Greggs launched a vegan version of its bestseller: the sausage roll.

Despite predictably boring snowflake-based criticism (much of which appeared to be a clever PR stunt), the Quorn-filled pastry was an undeniable success. Tasting almost identical to the meat version, it stormed into Greggs’s top five products, and was credited with what the Financial Times reported to be the chain’s biggest ever sales growth: a 58 per cent increase in profits in the first half of 2019.

This year it’s the humble steak bake’s turn to vie for the spotlight. While its arrival was already heavily rumoured after a sign for the vegan bake was spotted in a store last week, Greggs teased the release only with a cryptic all-black poster worthy of a new iPhone, simply reading “Greggs X Vegan”.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. Your new guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture each weekend - from the New Statesman. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Yet despite the billboards and the “Vegan Steak Bake Locator”, an online tool for finding your nearest branch selling the products, the reaction has this year been more muted. Last 2 January, when my colleague visited the branch on London’s Strand hoping to get her hands on a vegan sausage roll, she had to queue out the door – and wait for a new batch to be cooked.

Content from our partners
Supporting customers through the cost of living crisis
Data on cloud will change the way you interact with the government
Defining a Kodak culture for the future

Today, on the other hand, I waltzed straight in and up to the till, where there were five vegan steak bakes sitting on the shelves. (Although a somewhat frenzied-looking employee did look relieved to realise she still had some in stock, and claimed to have sold “literally eight in the last five seconds”.)

I, too, was far less excited by this year’s offering than I had been by the sausage roll, something I had long dreamed about during particularly bad hangovers. Yet I have to say: vegan steak bakes are very good.

The pastry, which is somehow more golden than that of the weirdly pale vegan sausage rolls, is filled with Quorn, diced onions and vegetable gravy. It costs £1.55 and is extremely delicious, but as I have never actually tried a regular steak bake, there is little more I can say: I have nothing to compare it to.

To me, it tastes like a Linda McCartney Deep Dish Country Pie – a staple of my childhood. My colleague Anoosh, who is much more qualified to draw comparisons, said the vegan alternative tastes just like the original. The satisfied murmurs of agreement around the New Statesman web desk suggest she is right.

Asked which I prefer, vegan steak bake or vegan sausage roll, I am surprised to struggle. I expected the steak bake could offer no competition to my beloved sausage roll. If pushed I would probably say the sausage roll slightly edges into the lead, but it’s a close competition. To put it simply: it would not at all be a disappointment to order a sausage roll and be told there were steak bakes left.  

In fact, the only disappointment of the vegan steak bake is that its release likely means we will have to wait another year for another like it. Although Greggs CEO Roger Whiteside announced last year that he has become vegan – and the bakery chain reportedly plans to launch vegan versions of all its most popular items – it seems the publicity and popularity of Veganuary is just too good an opportunity for businesses to miss.

KFC, too, today jumped on the bandwagon, launching its first-ever plant-based burger. Chicago Town will this month have its first vegan offering among its frozen pizzas. Co-op will next week release a vegan range. Café Nero will do the same, featuring plant-based croissants and vegan cheesecake.

The annual mass launch of so many vegan products is an undeniably good thing, and something to look forward to for many of us. But until Greggs can launch a plant-based snack on, say, a random Tuesday in June, its doing so won’t be an ethical decision but a marketing gimmick.