The Grocer Cup trophy dates back to 1923, and the list of former winners reads like a who’s who of grocery greats: all the industry’s knights of the realm are there – among them Sir Ken Morrison, Sir Terry Leahy, Sir Malcolm Walker and Sir David Lewis – along with other industry giants like Jonathan Warburton, Charles Wilson, Archie Norman and last year’s winner, Stuart Machin.

But there can be few winners as humble as Roisin Currie, the Greggs CEO, and the recipient of this year’s award. And none was a more popular choice at the Grocer Gold Awards last night. 

“We are a really humble brand,” she says, “and it is not about the ego of the person who happens to have the title of CEO – it really is about the sum of the team.”

People core to Greggs’ strategy

And in my video interview with her this week, it was clear this was not just lip service she was paying. There were constant references to the importance of “our people”, “the 32,000 Greggs colleagues… that make the difference. Every day.” 

Currie was unable to attend the spectacular awards ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall last night. But it was typical of Currie’s style that she chose not only to receive the huge silver trophy in a Greggs shop, but she insisted on sharing the celebration with staff behind the counter. 

Winston Churchill once said of a political foe: “He’s a humble man with much to be humble about.”

Greggs is the UK’s biggest fast food operator

Currie, on the other hand, has nothing to be humble about. In her affable, unpretentious way, she has helped transform Greggs from a failing bakery chain into the UK’s biggest fast food operator, with over 2,500 stores.  

In an industry increasingly aided and abetted by artificial intelligence , it has been Currie’s outstanding people skills – her empathy, her common touch – that have taken her to these heights. Initially joining Greggs on the HR side, it was Currie who set up Greggs with all the slick people and supply chain processes it needed to be transformed as she moved into retail operations.

Coupled with her relentless energy – needed to maintain the consistently immaculate store standards of its shops – Greggs has plans under Currie to take the estate to over 3,000 by 2026, and new manufacturing capacity under development to serve 3,500. And it will surely be her outstanding people skills that will continue to drive it ever onwards and upwards.