Pret A Manger's vegetarian products boost sales

exterior of Pret A Manger shop Image copyright Getty Images

Coffee and food chain Pret A Manger says demand for its vegetarian products helped to lift sales last year.

Total group sales rose 13.9% to £676m in 2015, with like-for-like sales - which strip out the impact of new stores - up 7.5%.

Underlying earnings at the chain rose 14.4% to £84.2m.

Pret said it was continuing to adapt its menu to meet the demand for healthy options and it is planning to open a vegetarian "pop up" shop this summer.

In the UK, sales of vegetarian products showed double digit growth last year. Avocado was the ingredient that saw the biggest rise in demand.

Clive Schlee, chief executive of Pret A Manger, told the BBC: "Demand for vegetarian foods is growing faster than for meat, but meat remains an important part of the diet.

"We are encouraging vegetarianism because we want to give meat eaters more options. I think vegetarian foods could look better and be better."

Image caption Pret's customers ate five million avocados in 2015

The chain said coffee remained an important area of growth, with customers buying 1.5 million cups a week from its global network of shops.

It said it had seen an increase in demand for breakfast-on-the-go, with 58% of sales occurring outside lunchtime.

International appeal

The US was Pret's fastest growing market last year, achieving a 13.8% increase in like-for-like sales.

Pret opened 36 new shops last year - 23 were in the UK, six in the US, four in France and three in Hong Kong.

These included locations at major transport hubs such as Penn Station in New York, Nice Airport and Gare de Lyon station in Paris.

The company said it created 763 jobs worldwide, with 500 of them in the UK.

Clive Schlee said the chancellor's National Living Wage had meant a 5% increase in the company's wage bill, but he said they were committed to paying above their competitor's rates to keep their staff fully engaged in the business.

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