Annual sales at Greggs exceeded £1bn for the first time in the year ending 28 December on the back of major store investments, despite a “challenging retail environment”.

Total sales increased by 7.2% and like-for-like sales were up 2.9% in 2018, while pre-tax profit rose to £89.8m – a £10.7m increase since 2017.

Over a 52-week period to 28 December, the bakery chain opened 149 new shops, bringing the trading shop total to 1,953.

Greggs chief executive, Roger Whiteside, said: “2018 was a year that tested the resilience of Greggs’ business model and demonstrated the benefits of our strategic investment programme. The first half was significantly impacted by extreme weather but once this returned to normal our underlying strengths helped us recover the lost ground and deliver results for the year that exceeded our expectations.”

Whiteside said the launch of the company’s vegan sausage roll drove a sales increase of 9.6% in the seven weeks to 16 February.

“Whilst there are significant uncertainties in the months ahead, Greggs has started 2019 in great form, helped in part by the publicity surrounding the launch of our vegan-friendly sausage roll,” he added.

“We hope to continue benefiting from this strong momentum during the first half of 2019 before facing stronger comparatives later in the year. We have a strong financial position which we plan to use to invest in Greggs’ potential for further growth, whilst also delivering good returns for shareholders.”