The boss of arguably the most celebrated retailer of meat-filled pastries in Britain has decided to go vegan after watching a Netflix documentary.
Greggs chief executive Roger Whiteside announced he is striving to cut all animal products from his diet while accepting an award for the North East business executive of the year.
Whiteside, who has headed up the UK’s largest bakery chain since 2013, said he had recently been convinced to forego sausage rolls in favour of their new vegan counterpart after watching The Gamechangers.
The film, which boasts Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Novak Djokovic and Lewis Hamilton as producers, details misconceptions around the relationship between eating meat and sporting or martial prowess, and how these have been driven by decades of marketing, particularly to men.
While accepting his award in Newcastle, Mr Whiteside said: “If you’d asked me three weeks ago which roll I preferred I would have said the original sausage roll, but I’m now attempting to live on a vegan diet.
“Obviously, there are arguments based on animal welfare and the environment, but this was about the health benefits, and I thought I should try.
“Avoiding meat is easy. The problem is to avoid dairy, avoid milk and cheese is almost impossible. It would be fine if I had time to cook, but I don’t, so I have to have things that are quick and easy. “
The bakery’s launch of a vegan sausage roll in January stole headlines and even sparked conspiracy theories as one website claimed chief antagonist Piers Morgan had shared the same PR company as the bakery chain, with their public spat dominating the UK’s public discourse for days.
Mr Whiteside added: “We’ve got the award-winning vegan wrap which I have quite frequently, and the vegan sausage roll which I’ll have about once a week, and now we have the sweet choice with the vegan sweet mince pie.”
Mr Whiteside is far from alone in his reaction to the documentary, with many on social media sharing their efforts to pursue a plant-based diet.
The film, which became iTunes’ best selling documentary on record, tackles the idea that meat in some way implies masculinity, a narrative rarely challenged on-screen.
“I ate a lot of meat,” says Arnold Schwarzenegger. “They show those commercials that sell that idea that real men eat meat. But you have to understand that that is marketing, that it is not based on reality. “
But others criticized him for not being impartial enough, or claimed that the film really defies the detrimental health effects of junk food, not meat in general.
Whiteside reaffirmed that the bakery chain was looking to create vegan versions of other products, after the success of the vegan sausage roll.
It has been speculated that meat bake could be next, after Greggs’ social media team asked customers on World Vegan Day, earlier this month: “What should we vegan next?”
But a spokesman for Greggs told The Independent that there was no way he was in stores at Christmas, and noted that the vegan sausage roll took about two years to create.