Bakery chain Greggs said it continued to make steady progress after half-year profits climbed seven per cent to £16.5 million.
The company, which has 1,392 shops and serves six million customers a week, improved sales by 4.4 per cent to £312 million in the six months to June 27, with the figure 1.5 per cent higher when changes to store space are stripped out.
Greggs, which has a bakery in Saltley, said cost control and the strength of its products helped it to weather tough trading conditions, although sales have slowed in the past six weeks after wet weather left the like-for-like rate flat on a year earlier.
The group recently launched a television advertising push, featuring Phoenix Nights star Paddy McGuinness, to promote its value-for-money products as consumers cut back on spending.
It has also revised its ranges, including offering a wider selection of sandwiches without mayonnaise in response to consumer demand.
Other new lines include a chicken and bacon pasty and chicken fajita pasty, while it has relaunched favourites such as its cheese and onion pasty with a new three-cheese recipe.
Across the whole range, Greggs said it had trebled the percentage of sales derived from new products.
Greggs also said it was seeing benefits from initiatives taken to simplify and centralise the business, including a new bakery in Manchester which has delivered efficiencies and increased capacity in the North West.
The company expects to open 40 new shops over the second half of the year, as well as to close between 10 and 15. It opened 14 new shops during the first half of 2009 and closed 31, including the sale of 10 shops in Belgium.
The rebranding of its Bakers Oven shops to Greggs is on target, with 40 per cent of the 164 outlets now converted and the programme continuing at a rate of two shops each week.
Numis Securities described the interim results as solid and said it expected like-for-like sales growth of two per cent for the full year, helped by easier comparatives in the third quarter.
The recent easing in food inflation should also help the business, Numis added.