Mark Wingett reports on how health-conscious consumers have made the sandwich this year’s food to go ‘must have’ .

How popular is the sandwich right now? How about enough to make fast food chain McDonald’s introduce deli-style sandwiches to its 1,200 takeaway outlets in the UK, or sandwich store chain Subway to open its first drive-thru store in Manchester.

The sandwich is enjoying something of a renaissance as consumers look for a healthier option for their daily meals.

According to the HIM 2004 snacking and prepared meals convenience tracking programme, three in five shoppers would consider buying sandwiches from
c-stores, while health is becoming more important in consumers’ choice of snack, with 45% of them seeing sandwiches purchased in c-stores as a healthy alternative.

Whether it’s a traditional sandwich, baguette or wrap, c-stores need to take advantage of this demand, especially as sandwich experts like Subway and Benjys are already entering the market.

In the last six months, Subway, which opened its 500th store in the UK in July, has seen a 25% increase in customers visiting its outlets.

More than 55% of the company’s sales come from its 7 Under 6 range, which contain less than six grams of fat and are low in calories.

Subway development agent Paul Heyes says: “Consumers’ interest in burger-based fast-food outlets is on the wane. More people are choosing sandwiches because they see them as healthier, tastier and fresher alternatives.”

Subway’s outlets include concessions inside four Spar forecourt sites run by Spar’s Northern Ireland wholesaler, the Henderson Group.

The partnership began two years ago, with the latest concession, launched in February this year, becoming the first eat-in inside a UK convenience store.
The move has been extremely worthwhile according to Henderson retail operation director Mark McCammond.
He comments: “It was a big decision to allow the concessions to take up 300-400sq ft in-store but the results and feedback we had from the initial three tie-ins were good enough for us to launch a seating area in our Newtownabbey store. ”

Sited directly opposite the store’s entrance, consumers have to pass through the newspaper, magazine and chilled drinks sections before ordering their sandwiches, which increases incremental sales.

McCammond continues: “The Subway concession has brought us new customers and has also extended our busy times. We used to get very quiet in the evenings, but as people have got to know about the new offer and its quality more, they are using it on the way home from work. A lot of people have said they’ve come to the store for the first time because of the new Subway.”

With another 40 forecourt sites in the province, McCammond acknowledges that the success of the original four sandwich concessions has got the company looking at other possible sites, while Subway itself has announced plans to roll out 400 concessions in UK c-stores over the next five years.

While Subway’s best-selling sandwich is the rather exotic-sounding sweet onion chicken teriyaki, Ginsters has relied on its ‘Simply’ and ‘Less than 350 calories’ ranges to record a 9% increase in its sandwich sales for the first six months of this year.

Ginsters marketing controller Larry File comments: “Busy workers are moving slightly away from hot food on the go and are turning to ready-made sandwiches, as people try to live a healthier lifestyle. Product development is a priority within Ginsters, in order to provide a level of innovation in the market to match consumer needs and increase choice.”

Benjys, which currently runs 72 company-owned and franchised sandwich stores across the country, and has been looking to develop its offering towards a one-stop-shop, is set to launch a brand-new range of sandwiches in September.

According to Benjys commercial director Emma Rickwood, the new launch will offer customers a wider range of products and will include a selection of healthy options, gourmet choices, traditional triangle sandwiches, plus baguettes and various wraps.

For the first time all packaging will include more detailed labelling and a ‘traffic light’ system to make customers aware of the nutritional content of the food.
Rickwood says: “We’ve adjusted the menu and labelling of our products to accommodate growing consumer requests for more information, and to fit changing diet trends. Consumers generally fit into two groups: those who are watching what they eat, and those who want to treat themselves with items from our gourmet range. With the new menu, both groups have even more options to choose from.”

The company, which stocks Atkins diet-friendly products under a Low Carb Low Cost banner, also launched an online diet guide at the start of this year.
While sandwiches have a role to play at the Spar forecourt store in Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, it is the baguettes put together each day on-site that are really grabbing consumers’ attention.

The food to go team, which is managed by Liz Hicks, produces an astonishing 150 baguettes a day using a range of chilled fillings from Country Choice.
A core range of filled baguettes was launched at the beginning of the year, taking up just two shelves, but this soon became a whole category section covering 11 choices of filling, wraps, salads, bags of fruit plus a ‘baguette of the day’.

Hicks says: “Our hot food section has slowed down over the summer while our chilled offer, including the baguettes, has absorbed this loss and been one of our biggest growth categories. We put them on the shelves at 10am and by lunchtime we have to replenish the area. This carries on well into the evening.”

The success of the filled baguettes, which come with a ticketing system produced by Country Choice showing what’s in each filling, has led to the introduction of wraps and salads.

Hicks continues: “Any ingredients we have left over from the baguettes we can use to make the salads, which are also providing consumers with a healthy alternative and producing good sales results.”

In the US, the toasted sandwich is becoming the darling of consumers, but here, for the time being, its cooler cousin is still winning the popular vote.

Filling Facts
The most popular sandwich fillings in the pre-prepared sandwich market are:

Chicken 24%

Fish 18% (mostly tuna and prawns)

Cheese 15%

Ham 12%

Bacon 10%

Egg 7%

Sausage 3%

Other 12%

Market breakdown of where commercially-made sandwiches are purchased:

Supermarkets 22.2%

Bakers 19.6%

Workplace 18.1%

Cafés/sandwich bars 15.7%

High street dept stores 6.5%

Convenience stores 5.9%

Petrol stations 5%

Motorway services 1.8%

Pubs/hotels 1%

What people consume with sandwiches outside the home:

Drink 73% - hot 33.9%/cold 39.9%

Crisps 10.5%

Cakes 5.3%

Biscuits 2.9%

Fruit 2.4%

Desserts 2.3%

Salty snacks 2.3%

Chocolate biscuit bars 2.1%

Confectionery 2%

Source: TNS Sandwich Trak

Sarnie Stories

A row over sandwiches in a Lincolnshire prison in 1994 started a riot by inmates that caused £3m-worth of damage. Lincoln Crown Court heard how the destruction at the prison in Lincoln began when hot meals were taken off the jail’s lunchtime menu and replaced by sandwiches, which upset a number of inmates. It took 168 prison riot officers from across the region to take back control of the prison, in what was described as the worst disturbance at a British jail for over a decade.

Schoolchildren in South Yorkshire are being rewarded for becoming more active - with bacon sandwiches.
Pupils at three primary schools in York receive the breakfast treat if they cycle rather than get a lift in a car to get to school. Councillors hope the new initiative will encourage more pupils in the city to take up cycling to school.

Tests have been carried out on a 15-year-old boy, who has eaten little other than jam sandwiches for 11 years, to see what effect it has had on his body. The tests on Craig Flatman, who is 6ft 2in and a keen sportsman, showed that his liver and kidneys are functioning normally. However, they also revealed that he was close to developing an iron deficiency. Craig, who also had his unusual diet studied when he was seven, has pledged to change his diet as much as possible.

A new system, which allows employees to order a sandwich from their desks and have the food freshly delivered to them for lunch, is being tested in Wales. Staff at the Cardiff headquarters of the Admiral Insurance Group, which is testing the initiative, click on a pop-up menu on their desktops and then choose from a selection of breads and fillings. A label with their instructions is automatically printed out in the company’s kitchen, which then makes up the order and delivers it direct to their desks.

Favourite Fillings

Eilidh McLelland, primary teacher, says:

“When I’ve got the time I make a chicken, avocado and bacon toasted baguette at home from ingredients I get from my local store. I like having toasted sandwiches and don’t usually like the pre-packed ones because the bread is often not very good and the fillings are usually too small.”

Michelle Rosant, student nurse, says:

“I would have to say nothing beats a strawberry jam sandwich. I’ve liked them since I was young and have never really grown out of them. If I want to get a sandwich in a store I would go for something traditional like cheese and pickle but it would have to be toasted.”

Elizabeth Paterson, retired teacher, says:

“I would have to say brie and cranberry or maybe egg would be my favourite fillings for a sandwich. I hate it when you get a sandwich and all the ingredients are in the middle.”

Walkers’ Mini Adventure

Walkers is to give away an iPod mini every five minutes, every day, throughout the whole of September, after launching what it says is its biggest and most exciting on-pack promotion.

Featuring inside packs of all Walkers standard crisps, Big Eat, Great British Sauces and multi-packs, the promotion includes a unique code, which consumers can email or text to Walkers to be entered into a free draw, with a guaranteed winner every five minutes.
The first draw will take place at five minutes past midnight on September 1, and the last at midnight on October 1.

Walkers, which is supporting the promotion with a new £1.5m Gary Lineker TV ad, will be helping consumers find the best times to enter the draw by detailing the number of entries at different times of the day on its website.

PepsiCo trade marketing manager Nicky Seal says: “Walkers has a great track record of successful on-pack promotions that drive category growth and we believe this one will be massive.”