Ringing the changes

03/11/2015 - 06:28
As popular handheld snacks, sandwiches and wraps hold their own as they are easy to eat; however, menus need regular makeovers to keep up with trends. Sheila Eggleston reports

On the go sandwiches account for £2.8bn in value in the UK, with wraps and baguettes accounting for 4% and 10% respectively, according to the British Sandwich Association, while more than 30% of sandwiches sold contained chicken.

However, more interesting fillings and carriers are coming on the scene and challenging traditional handheld snacks, and operators are acceding to pressure from consumers to address dietary requirements and flavour trends.

For example, the power of Costa’s social media followers influenced the chain’s decision to add its first veggie option to its gluten-free range this summer. The Coeliac UK-certified wrap made with linseed, sunflower and millet seed contains free range egg mayonnaise with slow roasted vine ripened tomatoes topped with crisp lettuce, and joins Costa’s other gluten-free options such as British chicken and basil salad wrap, cherry Bakewell and chocolate brownie.

Responding to the trend for US-inspired offerings, Subway has added limited edition beef pastrami melt subs to menus, which will be available until October 27 or while stocks last.

Combining tender beef with a peppery crust, American mustard, pickles and melted cheese, the sub offers “a bite of authentic New York”, which can be customised by consumers.

Other recent additions include Pasta King’s enhanced Street Eats food to go range of British lines using Red Tractor, Freedom Food and British Lion Quality assured ingredients, which blends classics with world cuisine.

Meanwhile, new from Moy Park Foodservice are street-food inspired pulled chicken lines supplied frozen in original and US-inspired smoky BBQ flavours. “In creating street-style pulled chicken lines, we’re giving caterers the tools they need to profit from this burgeoning trend to keep menus fresh and reap the cost-saving benefits of using quality frozen food,” says Frannie Santos-Mawdsley, senior customer marketing manager, European Foodservice.

According to Lantmännen Unibake UK (LUUK), sandwiches now represent 17.9% of the lunchtime occasion. “Research suggests that sandwiches with a point of difference will create a step-change in the purchasing habits of consumers looking for new food experiences,” comments marketing manager Rachel Shoosmith. “For example, outlets can add twists to generic sandwiches by using morning goods as alternative carriers.” LUUK recommends using croissants, which can be complemented with on-trend flavoured fillings.

The company says that its ciabatta and paninis enriched with extra virgin olive oil for an authentic Italian flavour and grill marked paninis are ideal for outlets with limited equipment.

Recently LUUK also introduced brioche burger buns and hot dog rolls. Shoosmith says ‘Americanised’ menus have dominated outlets with beef burgers being the most listed main course in the UK and gourmet burgers rising by 12%, while hot dogs are the UK’s fastest growing menu item and is a key revenue driver on 85% more menus.

More recently, Mexican versions of the UK’s beef burger known as Burgerdillas have started featuring in outlets, which highlights how versatile tortilla wraps can be, says Mission Foodservice head of OOH sales, Dave Edwards.

He says that popular wrap fillings include poultry, which accounts for 38% of wrap ingredients, and beef, mushrooms, beans and seafood. “Another popular flavour is pulled pork,” he adds. “It was virtually non-existent on menus in 2010 but has now grown 137% year on year. There is also American-style pulled pork sandwiches tempting consumers in restaurants, which can be easily converted to wrap or quesadilla fillings.

“UK menus are increasingly inspired by global cuisines using ingredients such as Dukkah, an Egyptian spice made up of sesame and coriander seeds, hazelnuts, and cumin and often eaten for breakfast. Laksa, nduja and baconnaise, a bacon flavoured mayo-based product, are also growing in mainstream usage. Caterers can also add flavour by using one of our flavoured wraps.

“Research by Technomic suggests that the ability to customise is more important to consumers than any other factor when deciding upon a sandwich and is a great way to cater for dietary requirements,” he adds.

Eimear Owens, country sales manager – UK & Ireland, Santa Maria Foodservice, advises operators to look at different ways to serve fillings. “The open sandwich is commonplace in Scandinavian countries, and, over the past few months, London has become the latest city to embrace this type of sandwich in outlets,” she says. “Think open sandwiches with toppings such as our freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper on an open salmon sandwich and tomato and mozzarella on sourdough bread.”

However, Neil Lindsell, concepts development manager at Country Choice, says that around 75% of the nation has a sandwich for lunch and most of the sales are from the same fillings – chicken, bacon, egg, tuna, ham, and cheese. “The most important thing for caterers are seasonal and promotional menus,” he says. “It’s also important to ensure they have a great message as consumers are always looking for premiumisation.”

Lindsell says that hot sandwiches, filled naan and burritos are on-trend, while varieties of flavoured baguettes and bread are emerging as carriers. In addition, using low fat mayo and cream cheese, plus yogurt, as well as lean meat and egg, with wholemeal and seeded bread contributes to making healthy snacks. There is also a growing demand for halal products, he adds.

Among favourite traditional fillings are sausages and bacon, which must be on menus, says AHDB Pork. Bacon sandwiches in particular perform well out-of-home with servings up 12% year-on-year, it explains.

Supporting sausage sandwich sales, Snowbird Foods has developed a technique for cutting sausages lengthways so that two standard sausages generously cover a slice of bread, thusreducing preparation time in the kitchen.

Grace Keenan, brand manager for Kerrymaid, says that more consumers are looking to handheld options as a quick, convenient meal, especially served hot, as they are substantial enough to satisfy consumers’ hunger yet not too filling compared to other breakfast and dinner options.

“With hot sandwiches and wraps in high demand, cheese stands out as a favourite ingredient, and operators can improve preparation times for these options by using our grated products. The range can also help cater for dietary requirements, as it is gluten-free, contains no hydrogenated fats and is suitable for vegetarians.”

Dairygold Food Ingredients (DFI), which supplies cheese in sticks, slices, grated and cubes, and several smoked varieties, advises operators to watch out for trends and work closely with suppliers to ensure their cheese offerings are aligned with consumer demand.

“The pre-packaged sandwich market in the UK is worth around £3.8bn, according to Canadean Intelligence – UK Pre-packaged sandwiches market analysis 2008-18, a figure which has steadily increased as consumer habits change and the trend towards food-to-go becomes more prevalent,” says marketing manager Svitlana Binns. “However, getting offerings right is essential.”

Ideas from Lactalis Foodservice includes its President Lingot brie, which unlike regular brie, is rectangular in shape for foodservice, which makes it perfect for slicing, portion control and waste reduction.

The company recommends weekly cheese specials, highlighting one cheese and pairing it with different ingredients to offer variety. Another tip is to create special offers such as a sandwich of the week at a lower price to boost sales.

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