Who wins the real North-South war – Greggs or Pret A Manger?
Who wins the real North-South war? As a new study says Greggs and Pret A Manger represent the true social divide in Britain we dive into the pasties and sausage rolls to find which is tastiest – and best value for money
Forget politics, the weather or how you pronounce ‘scone’ . . . the true North-South divide, it seems, is found in what you eat for lunch. If you’re partial to a sausage roll or a steak bake, you’re a Northerner, but if a chicken and avocado baguette is your sandwich of choice, you’re more likely to live down South.
This is according to scientists from Sheffield Hallam University, who used artificial intelligence — based on the number and location of Greggs bakeries and Pret A Manger shops — to divide the country into North and South.
The Greggs-loving North, researchers found, begins at the Watford Gap and stretches — somewhat bizarrely — diagonally across the country to Cornwall. The Pret-obsessed South comprises most of the East of England (but only some of Norfolk).
It may not make sense geographically, and is sure to ruffle feathers nationwide, but the tongue-in-cheek study has sparked much discussion.
Greggs has been a symbol of the North since opening its first bakery in Newcastle in 1951. Pret — which began in central London in 1984 — is popular with posh Southerners.
Sarah Rainey, pictured, undertook the ultimate test to decide which is better – Greggs or Pret
But with both selling almost-identical food and drink, can you really tell the difference — and which should win the battle for your lunch money? SARAH RAINEY puts their products to the test.
Greggs’ famous sausage rolls need no introduction: the bakery sells more than 2.5 million of these every week, celebrity fans include Ed Sheeran and Lewis Capaldi, and they have even been the subject of a LadBaby No 1 hit. Pret launched theirs in 2020 . . . but can they rival the original?
TASTE: Fresh from the oven, with a steaming, meaty middle and layers of crispy puff pastry round the outside, Greggs’ sausage roll always lives up to the hype. It may not look gourmet, but it’s cheap, delicious and hard to beat. 5/5
TASTE: Not many people know Pret do sausage rolls — and they’re missing out. The centre’s made from pork mince and caramelised onions, and the puff pastry is covered in poppy seeds, which give a lovely crunch. It’s smaller than Greggs’, and almost three times the price, but very tasty indeed. 4/5
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Greggs’ (left) sausage roll received five out of five while Pret’s (right) earned a four out of five
HAM AND CHEESE TOASTIE
It’s a classic combination: salty ham and tangy mature Cheddar between two slices of toasted white bread. But who’s got the formula just right?
TASTE: With the promise of honey-roast ham and lashings of creamy bechamel sauce, my hopes are high for Greggs’ offering. But the whole thing is mushy, unappetising and disappointingly bland. Less toastie, more soggy — and far from satisfying. 2/5
TASTE: It’s almost double the price of the Greggs toastie, with plenty more calories, probably hiked by the generous dollop of English mustard mayo. The filling’s nice but the winner here is the bread: it’s a seeded bloomer, not a drab sandwich loaf, toasted to golden perfection. 5/5
Greggs’ ham and cheese toastie (left) was ‘disappointingly bland’ while Pret’s (right) was ‘toasted to golden perfection’
A coffee connoisseur I am not, but I love a milky coffee pick-me-up at any time of day — so surely these will both hit the spot?
TASTE: It’s strong, hot and the caffeine-rich Arabica and Robusta beans pack a punch without making my head explode. There’s plenty of bubbly foam on top, as well as chocolate sprinkles. 4/5
TASTE: Coffee lovers may disagree, but Pret’s cappuccino, made from the brand’s organic, roasted Arabica beans, is too bitter for me. The froth is lovely and creamy, but they’ve really skimped on my chocolate topping, which is a let-down considering the price. 3/5
Greggs’ cappuccino (left) was nearly half the price of Pret’s (right) but came out on top in the taste test
A truly indulgent start to the day is a freshly baked chocolate croissant. These differ slightly: Pret’s is a chocolate-stuffed, chocolate-coated regular croissant, while Greggs do a more traditional pain au chocolat — but they’re both making my mouth water.
TASTE: The pastry looks a little beige and anaemic and is soft rather than flaky, which isn’t a good start. However, the texture inside is fluffy and delicious, and it’s stuffed full of (very sweet and moreish) melted chocolate. 4/5
TASTE: Apparently dreamt up by a team of top French pastry chefs, this is one of Pret’s signature products —and my go-to if I ever crave an indulgent snack. The pastry is perfectly-golden, crisp on the outside and springy in the centre, and the chocolate oozes out in a scrumptious puddle. Just gorgeous. 5/5
Pret’s (right) chocolate croissant was nearly twice the price of Greggs (left), but was worth every penny
CHICKEN SALAD BAGUETTE
A lunchtime staple, comprising chicken breast, mayo and salad, inside a freshly-baked baguette. It’s crucial to get the chicken-to-mayo ratio right, though, otherwise you’ll end up with a rather soggy sandwich.
TASTE: There’s so much mayo in this baguette I can barely extract it from the packaging without covering my hands in the stuff, and taking a dainty mouthful proves impossible. The whole thing tastes quite wet, is in dire need of salt —and could have done with more of the star ingredient: chicken. 1/5
TASTE: This is one of Pret’s more reasonably-priced sandwiches, said to be a ‘twist on a classic chicken salad’. The mayo is nice, but not amazing, and the abundance of salad leaves — with added cucumber — make the inside of the baguette damp and mushy. 2/5
Pret’s chicken salad baguette (pictured) didn’t wow Sarah, but it was still better than the same version of the sandwich from Greggs
Surely, there can’t be much of a difference between two simple bottles of orange juice, can there? Actually, there can.
TASTE: Sharp, tangy and so tart it almost tastes acidic, I can’t drink a sip of this 150ml bottle without puckering my face in disgust. It’s made from concentrate and you can tell — not one I’ll be trying again. 0/5
TASTE: Freshly-squeezed Florida oranges go into every bottle of Pret’s juice. It tastes refreshing, suitably citrussy and has just the right balance of sweet and sour. It’s a pity the serving is so small (just 250ml), as it’s gone in a few sips. 4/5
Sarah couldn’t drink Greggs’ orange juice (left) ‘without puckering my face in disgust’, as Pret’s drink (right) came out on top
Both chains are known for their sweet treats, with this berry muffin — which has a soft fruity centre — a firm favourite. The raspberry one is new to Greggs, having been introduced in April, while the blueberry one has been on the menu at Pret for years.
TASTE: A soft vanilla-flavoured muffin, studded with raspberry pieces and crystallised sugar, and filled with a gooey raspberry centre, this will only appeal if you have a super-sweet tooth. Thankfully, I do — and I love the contrast of tart berry with buttery sponge. 4/5
TASTE: More than twice the price of Greggs’, with an added whack of calories, this muffin looks and sounds gourmet. It’s packed full of blueberries and a yummy streusel crumb, but the sponge itself is dry and over-sweet, and the blueberry centre is a stodgy let-down. 2/5
Pret’s chocolate cookie (pictured) was twice the price of Greggs’ offering, but didn’t come out on top in the taste test
Chocolate cookies, especially ones containing milk, dark and white chocolate, are a real treat. While Greggs has opted for the classic triple chocolate formula, Pret has swapped out white chocolate for almond butter, almond pieces and sea salt.
TASTE: Served slightly-warm, the cookie is so fresh it falls apart in my hands. The chocolate chunks are melty and moreish. The dough is sweet, crumbly perfection. 5/5
TASTE: A teeny bit bigger than Greggs’, this looks less gourmet. The nutty pieces are a great addition, but the cookie snaps rather than crumbles, which is disappointing, and it could do with more chocolate chunks. 4/5
CHEESE AND ONION CRISPS
While both outlets offered their own cheese and onion flavoured crisps, Pret’s (right) offering came out on top against Greggs’ (left)
The nation’s favourite flavour, cheese and onion crisps fly off the shelves up and down the country every lunchtime. So how different can a bag of crisps really be?
TASTE: One of the cheapest items on Greggs’ menu, these mature Cheddar and onion crisps don’t look very delicious: the bag has a picture of a raw onion on it. But inside there’s 40g of decent-sized, golden crisps that have a lovely rounded, tangy flavour. 4/5
TASTE: Hand-cooked, skin-on potatoes, flavoured with mature cheddar and onion (red), and made into little crispy nuggets, these are dangerously addictive. It’s the flavourings — paprika, parsley and yeast extract — that really give them the edge. 5/5
OVERALL WINNER: PRET
Pret is, without a doubt, pricier: my whole bag of takeaway lunchtime staples cost £27.59, compared to just £15.40 at Greggs.
And the products are, in every instance, higher in calories — meaning it’s not an ideal option if you’re looking for a healthy meal.
But when it comes to flavour, quality and overall appeal — sorry, my Northern ancestors — but Pret is the winner, on everything from toasties to croissants and orange juice to crisps.
Taste, it turns out, trumps location — whether you’re a Greggs-loving Northerner, a Pret-obsessed Southerner or somewhere in between.
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