Greggs has topped British Baker’s Top 50 Bakery Retailers’ league table for the third year running, keeping closest rival Subway at bay.

The 2009 list shows Greggs opened 50 shops last year, bringing its tally to 1,403 at the end of the year, and making it the biggest bakery retailer in the UK.

Subway was the fastest- growing chain in the UK, opening 264 units over 2008. It is at number two on the latest list, with 1,284 franchise outlets at the close of 2008.

Greggs’ new chief executive Ken McMeikan, who took over last July, commented: "It is a great honour on behalf of all the great people at Greggs, and its long-serving leaders Sir Michael Darrington and Ian Gregg, to receive this accolade. They have built an incredibly strong business since 1964, with incredible growth prospects. The challenges to see that business grow and accelerate its growth are very exciting and we have a great team in place to do that." McMeikan also recently spoke of "significant opportunities" for new shop locations.

The British Baker Top 50 includes all types of retailer of bakery products, modern and traditional, from craft bakers to café chains, ranked by number of units. The top 10 of 2009 includes Starbucks, Caffè Nero and Pret A Manger.

Leigh-based Waterfields is a notable climber on the new list, with 49 stores, following its acquisition of 10-shop Liverpool-based John Pimblett & Sons in December. Patisserie Holdings, which owns the Druckers and Patisserie Valerie brands, also opened eight shops during the year, bringing its estate to 59 outlets.

Missing from the new list is Welsh chain Ferrari’s Bakery, number 19 in 2007, which went into liquidation in November.

Mike Holling, chairman of the National Association of Master Bakers said bakery retailers were facing the most challenging times in the industry that he had ever experienced. "The big question is, what will the high street look like in 2009, with Woolworths closing, and fashion houses going into administration?" he said. "We, as bakers, need supporting businesses on the high street."