BAKER Greggs is launching an attack on Cornish pasty heartland to build on resurgent sales.

The Newcastle-based company wants to open more stores in the West Country, where tin miners famously ate the pasty at work.

Greggs was previously forced to rename its version of a Cornish pasty by EU rulers, who said only Cornwall-made products using traditional recipes, could use the name.

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The firm told The Northern Echo of its plans while revealing ambitions to add to its 1,661 stores and operate 2,000 outlets across the UK.

Bosses say the move comes as it focuses on changing customer demands, which has seen Greggs increase its presence away from the high street and into retail parks, motorway services, and sites closer to consumers’ places of work.

Richard Hutton, Greggs’ finance director, said the company the firm was focused on steady growth, but acknowledged there were areas it could target, including Cornwall.

He said: “We will always need to have representation on the high street and we believe it has a strong future.

“But we also need to be aware of how and where people are using our stores.

“There is big potential in the West Country and the South-East, where we have a lower store density.

“We have focused on keeping our numbers steady, and concentrated on quality, but there is a lot of potential for 2,000 shops.”

Mr Hutton was speaking as the company, which employs about 20,000 people, announced total sales had increased 3.1 per cent to £373m for the half year to June 28, with pre-tax profits up from £11.4m to £16.9m.

He said its growth was helped by concentrating on the takeaway food and drinks sector, which Greggs calls food-on-the-go.

It has moved from its bread-making heritage towards new savoury products and fresh sandwiches to dominate the convenience sales market, absorbing its Moment coffee shop chain back into the main business to attract higher passing convenience sales.

Mr Hutton said £1m weekly sales of healthier sandwiches, aligned to new coffee blends, were complimenting existing savoury ranges, such as sausage rolls, which it makes more than 100 million of every year.

He added: “The savoury products are still hugely popular, and our focus on food-on-the-go has shown to be the right course and been borne out.”

Greggs was founded in the 1930s by John Robson Gregg, who sold eggs and yeast from a bicycle in North-East streets, and now has more shops in the UK than burger chain McDonald's.

What is a Cornish pasty?

The Cornish pasty was eaten by poorer working families, capable of only affording cheap ingredients like potatoes, swede and onion, with meat added later.

By the end of the 18th century, it was popular with Cornish working men, such as miners and farm workers, and was sometimes divided inside to house a main course and dessert.

Its thick crimped edges were used to hold the pasty and stop miners being poisoned from the arsenic on their fingers.

Experts say a genuine Cornish pasty has to be made in Cornwall, come in the shape of a D, and contain mince or beef, swede, potato, onion and pepper seasoning.

Greggs was forced to change the name of its pasty to a beef and vegetable pasty because it uses carrots and peas, with its website acknowledging its “controversial” take on the product.