Brave new world

27/08/2013 - 15:02
Inspirational handy solutions in the sandwiches and wraps category continue to benefit operators satisfying hungry and time-poor consumers. Sheila Eggleston reports on the latest trends

More than three billion sandwiches are bought across all outlets each year, which is estimated to be worth a staggering £6bn by the British Sandwich Association (BSA).

Chicken is way ahead in the popularity stakes for a filling accounting for around 30% of all commercially made sandwiches, but the BSA admits other fillings such as egg and ham have gained ground in the last year. Flavours, meanwhile, are getting bolder and more inspirational.
Companies such as Plusfood UK and Moy Park Foodservice have capitalised on chicken’s popularity as a filling. New strips from Plusfood made from chicken breast fillet comes in four exotic and on-trend varieties – crunchy Thai, Marrakesh, Mississippi and Bandito-style chicken, each one designed to appeal to consumers looking for new contemporary flavours and textures.

Moy Park’s marketing manager Jayne Hall reasons that chicken is an ideal filling because it takes on any flavour and is delicious hot and cold. “Caterers can spice up sandwiches by including items such as our crunchy Chick ‘n’ Mini fillets to create the perfect Hunter’s sandwich. Another option is ‘thaw and serve’ diced chicken tikka and cheese, which makes an appetising chicken tikka melt.”
BPEX says quality ingredients combined with better menu descriptions enable outlets to justify higher price points.

“Simple descriptors such as Wiltshire cured back bacon or locally sourced traditional pork sausages can add interest to menus,” says foodservice trade manager Tony Goodger. “Using the Red Tractor logo also shows the meat has been produced to rigorous standards – a sign discerning sandwich customers will be looking for.”

Bacon sandwiches account for 14% of all sandwich servings eaten out of home, with 27.9% consumed at breakfast or as a morning snack, 58.6% at lunch or as an afternoon snack and 13.6% at dinner/late snack, according to BPEX, and Goodger says hot bacon sandwich options and deep filled sandwiches including classics such as BLT using speciality cures will attract customers.
Another trend is ethnic-inspired hot handheld offerings. Market analyst Mintel reports that 40% of out of home purchases have been spicy-filled sandwiches or wraps in the last year, with an additional 29% of consumers interested in buying them in the next 12 months.

BPEX has responded by publishing a street-food based recipe book incorporating handheld globally inspired pork dishes to satisfy this casual dining trend. “As a result of its impressive flavours, convenience and sociable experience, some 2.5 million people worldwide eat street food a day,” says Goodger, adding that suppliers too are tapping into the trend and now producing street food inspired snacks.

Santa Maria Foodservice says the phenomenal rise in street food and handheld snacks has seen tortillas tripling in use in full service restaurants. “Now customers are looking for a wider range of hot and cold wraps that they can enjoy while on the go,” says foodservice marketing manager UK & Ireland Eimear Owens.

“One of the main advantages of handheld snacks such as wraps is that the filling and flavour options is endless. Our World Wraps concept taps into the desire for ethnic tastes offering flavours such as Thai, American, BBQ, Indian and Mexican which will fire up customers’ taste buds, giving them the more sensational flavours they want in a tasty handheld wrap.”

The concept includes soft tortillas, ready-to-use sauces and spice mixes that just need vegetables and protein added by the operators.

Dave Edwards, head of sales for Mission Foodservice, says wraps are ideal carriers for people on the move because they hold contents well, reducing spillage, plus as wraps don’t go soggy when holding a wetter filling, consumer choice isn’t restricted. This is also an advantage for caterers who need to prepare wraps in advance; reducing wastage and creating the impression of freshness for consumers, he adds.

“We were keen to learn more about lunchtime trends and understand consumer choices, commissioning research by Technomic, which demonstrates that many consumers would pay more for a hot sandwich and don’t mind waiting a little longer while it’s grilled or toasted. Typically, a wrap takes 25% less time to grill than the average panini.

“Mexican food is the fastest growing cuisine in the country and the Mexican restaurant sector is growing, having served 18.3 million meals in 2012 from 278 outlets, up from 11.5 million meals from 175 outlets in 2007. Younger consumers in particular are drawn to globally inspired sandwiches; 62% of 18-24 year olds would like to see more restaurants offering ethnic sandwiches and ingredients.”

He says the research reveals that sandwiches are ripe for flavour experimentation and that caterers can take advantage of current trends by serving options such as quesadillas – toasted wraps that are healthy options and ideal to eat on the go.

Other popular trends noted by Technomic included mini sandwiches, more innovative fillings or toppings and high quality signature breakfast sandwiches. “Caterers looking to improve morning sales should certainly focus on the latter; over half of consumers leave home without breakfast and are looking to purchase something to eat on the go,” he adds.

Sweet-filled wraps are another possibility for consumers looking for something different. Sweet wraps work particularly well as a snack, giving caterers more options for the snack menu, he explains.

Ginsters has refreshed its best-selling branded sandwiches this summer, and its distinct tiers: Deep Fill, Classic and Simply, will include new contemporary flavours such as houmous and carrot alongside traditional favourites such as BLT, chicken and bacon, and cheese ploughman’s. It says all the chicken, pork, beef and egg across the range will continue to be UK-sourced.

Its new premium batch sandwiches, a format popular in coffee shops with growth of 14% year on year, will include roast beef and horseradish, salmon and cucumber and Westcountry cheddar ploughman’s. New flatbread will initially include chicken and mango, and sweet potato falafel and mango, each containing less than 350 calories.

Delice de France has extended its range to capitalise on research showing more interest in world flavours, particularly French and North African ones. Wraps currently account for the largest share of the speciality bread sector so the company has introduced khobez flatbread, traditional Lebanese bread that can be used to create different wraps.

Meanwhile, its improved pre-filled paninis have been influenced by popular European flavours. Buttery béchamel sauce, fresh tomato slices and ingredients such as maple-cured bacon, make these lunchtime favourites for consumers, it says.

Stephen Clifford, marketing controller at Country Choice, says one of the big success stories in 2012 was meal deals that helped boost sales. “These deals also help to bring in lucrative coffee sales,” he says. “With the appropriate deal operators can expect to make a food sale with every second cup of coffee or tea sold. ‘Half price cofee with any filled baguette’ would be a typical offer.”

‘Round pound’ deals also proved successful in relation to meal deals, he adds. For example, a caterer could offer a lunchtime meal deal incorporating a baguette and coffee at a ‘round pound’ price of £4.

Earlier this year, the company launched ‘heat stable’ sandwich fillings for caterers wanting to offer hot sandwiches. “This meant redeveloping our mayonnaise based fillings so they are safe to warm in a panini grill or microwave,” says Clifford.

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