UK bakery chain Greggs today [Friday] reported 2001 pre-tax profits up 24% to £32.7m (US$46.6m), its best ever profit report.

The group also announced it would open 50 new shops in the UK as it expands its store opening programme.

Looking further afield for the first time, Greggs also said it is planning to open a pilot shop on mainland Europe, although it did not disclose in which country it would begin its international campaign.

Greggs has gone from strength to strength in recent years - for example, it was the only bakery group to be awarded a concession in the Millennium Dome. The group said in a press release that it needed to step up the pace of the expansion of its manufacturing capacity to meet the demands of future growth. Therefore, total capital expenditure is expected to reach a record £38m, with much of this investment funnelled into long-term projects.

The group reported a strong start to the New Year, with like-for-like sales showing a 9.7% rise in the first nine weeks of the year.