This week marks British Sandwich Week, a celebration of the humble sandwich, whose roots lie when Lord John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, asked for his meat to be served between two slices of bread so he didn’t have to stray from gambling with friends for lunch.
In celebration of the week of the sandwich, Warburtons has conducted some research into the nation’s favourite sandwich and the plain old cheese sandwich emerged victorious. As sandwich makers and designers, we are constantly trying to think of new and exciting sandwich flavours, but should we bother?
Sandwich suppliers are constantly trying to find new and exciting fillings to bring to the market, but how many of these last the distance? Despite an influx of new and exciting fillings, it is the sandwiches we have enjoyed for decades that continue to top the sales time and time again.
According to the BSA 2017 Market Report – bacon, chicken and cheese hold the majority of the market, with bacon overtaking the latter after a 6.5% YOY growth in demand and the BLT returning to top of the pops.
Despite the rise in vegetarianism and veganism, the top 10 fillings remain meat or animal product based. However, arguably where we’ve seen the most innovation recently, is with vegan fillings.
January saw a boom in vegan options hitting the sandwich market with Onion Bhaji, Falafel and Rainbow Salad leading the vegan filling stakes.
Sandwich suppliers have noted the increased demand for vegan options and responded with vegan ranges but beyond that – is there a place for sandwich filling innovation when it is the old favourites such as BLT, Chicken and Bacon, Cheese Salad, Egg Mayonnaise and Prawn Mayonnaise currently remain the strong sellers.
The short answer is yes, the sandwich market needs to be kept fresh and exciting to keep it from going stagnant. While new and limited-edition flavours are never going to reach the solar highs of the BLT – they satisfy the needs of the consumer who craves something different.
Sandwich innovation and new filling options help to prevent menu fatigue and keep sandwich ranges relevant and exciting ensuring that the choice doesn’t become stagnant for both trade customers and their consumers.
For every consumer who religiously eats the same sandwich every single day, there is one that enjoys browsing the shelves for something new and exciting. Even if consumers choose the same sandwiches every day, they like to feel as if they have choice.
A simple sandwich isn’t necessarily simple and we are seeing flavours such as BBQ, Katsu, Mexicana and Indian becoming staples alongside the traditional British favourites.
For the sandwich industry to keep up with street food, innovation and new product launches are a defence mechanism. To ignore food trends is to become irrelevant and old fashioned. Tastes do gradually change over time and it is better to be ahead of the curve than behind it.
Christmas and summer provides ample opportunity to provide options that stand out from the crowd and provide a small sense of escapism from the everyday drudgery of the working world.
Every Christmas, we have seen sandwich innovation develop more elements of the Christmas dinner to bring something special to the lunch hour from edible stars to Yorkshire Pudding croutons.
Outside of developing new sandwich fillings, it is the innovation of separate ingredients that also require essential innovation. For example, the industry still needs good value palm oil free spreads that retain their spread quality or low-fat mayonnaise which isn’t full of xanthan gym.
These ingredient innovations can make all the difference, Raynor Foods introduced the use of Intense Tomatoes in their sandwiches to limit soggy sandwiches. They also cross-bred their own Verity Grace lettuce to produce something that was quicker to prepare with better flavour.
The other factor that will drive innovation is nutritional targets and legal requirements – such as cutting down on salt and fat. Sandwich suppliers will need to alter and develop their products to fit these new guidelines but still provide a tasty product meaning the old favourites could see a major overhaul as manufacturers review their ingredients and bread carriers.
It is innovation that keeps the sandwich market growing and developing and it allows us to find new and exciting ways to make our products even better and provide exciting flavours for consumers to choose from.
The sandwich market is a testing ground and we are lucky enough to work with a product that affords so many new and exciting options to experiment with. Innovation is the lifeblood of the sandwich industry and will allow us to continue to evolve to consumer demands.