SURGING demand for Greggs’ vegan sausage roll has helped meat-free food giant Quorn cook up a jump in annual sales.

The group, which partnered with Greggs to develop the popular savoury treat, posted a seven per cent rise in sales to £220m for 2018 as it continued to benefit from the rising trend for veganism and alternatives to meat. The sausage roll was one of the biggest vegan-friendly food success stories over the past year and has been boosting figures at bakery chain Greggs as it proved a hit with consumers.

Quorn, which is headquartered in Stokesley,, said its sales growth could have been higher, but was pegged back by a factory fire in June last year, while it has also struggled to meet growing demand.

Profits were also held back, down 16 per cent at £27m in 2018 as it ploughed £5m into research and development.

Chief executive Kevin Brennan said the group is set for sharp growth in the UK and internationally as demand for meat alternatives shows no sign of slowing. The group recently opened a new manufacturing facility in Billingham, which will double its capacity as it seeks to meet increasing demand.

Its annual results showed US sales rose by 24 per cent last year and the firm is expecting growth in America to nearly double to 45 per cent in 2019.

Elsewhere internationally, Quorn said sales in Australia raced 38% higher.

Mr Brennan said: “Today’s results reflect the strong momentum we’ve seen since 2016.

“While it’s important that Quorn continues to grow, it’s vital that we do so in a sustainable way.

“As we continue to make progress, it’s clear that now is the time to invest heavily in research and development to ensure we lead the world in delivering great solutions to the climate issues associated with meat production.”

It also said it now has its “strongest ever” pipeline of new development products, having recently launched the new Fishless Fillets range, while a range of 10 cupboard-friendly convenience foods are set to hit shelves in June.

This comes after last year saw the launch of not just the Greggs sausage roll, but also its Quorn vegan smoky ham-free and vegan chicken-free sandwich slices.

Quorn employs around 800 people and exports to 20 countries worldwide.