Technomic, a foodservice consulting firm here, has found that consumers would like to have more variety in sandwiches, and they particularly cite fresh local and organic ingredients as desirable.
Indeed, 44% of respondents in a Technomic study conducted this spring wanted sandwiches made with locally grown ingredients, and 30% said they wanted organic ingredients.
A significant number, too, said they seek sandwiches made with premium and/or artisanal breads.
“Top-quality components. That's what they said they expect in a sandwich,” Darren Tristano, executive vice president, Technomic Information Services, told SN last week.
Technomic's Sandwich Consumer Trend Report surveyed a cross-section of Americans who eat in limited-service restaurants and full-service restaurants.
The survey of more than 1,500 consumers revealed that 39% of those eating at LSRs and 51% at FSRs were not fully satisfied with available sandwich options, and that they wanted new and unique ingredient offerings, flavors and combinations.
“The current study was an update of one we did last year, and all the [new] data seemed to be on-trend,” Tristano said.
“Consumers are concerned about the quality of meats, artisan cheese and artisan breads. Those things are more in their consciousness now because we're seeing more of these [products] on the market.”
The research also indicated that consumers put a high priority on freshness and choice.
“The customization factor is valuable to them,” Tristano pointed out. “Whether the bun is to be steamed, toasted or grilled. Do they want sauce, and if so, which one?”
That's in addition to being able to choose each ingredient.
“We're starting to see more organic sandwiches, and I think humane animal treatment will be a factor in the future,” Tristano said.
“Chipotle is already at the front of that, and others, including sandwich chains, will pick that up.”
While the survey was completed for the foodservice industry, it has application to supermarkets' sandwich programs, and Tristano underscored the relevance of the findings to retail programs.
“Whole Foods at some of their locations are making sandwiches to order, but most supermarkets don't have that. If you are a supermarket and you're not going to have [a service counter sandwich program], then I'd promote freshness in some way, and then, packaging and the display should get full attention.”
Tristano mentioned Tesco as a retailer and Pret A Manger as a limited-service foodservice venue as two experts in packaging sandwiches for self-service to show their contents and accent their freshness. Sandwiches at those two chains are cut in half diagonally and then set into rigid, transparent triangular plastic containers in such a way that their ingredients are very visible. Labels are on transparent tape, and the time the sandwich was made is displayed.
“The most important tip I could give supermarket operators,” Tristano said, “is to create a definite sandwich station, whether service or self-service. Sometimes supermarkets' sandwiches are in with the sushi and other things. I've even seen them in with all kinds of items that are to be microwaved.”
In other words, sandwiches in the supermarket often seem to be an afterthought, but especially in today's world, where convenience, portability and freshness count for so much, a sandwich program should not be given short shrift, Tristano said.
Driven by price points, convenience and portability, sandwiches — seen in the past primarily as lunch fare — are moving into other day parts: breakfast and late-night especially, researchers found.
The sandwich business in the foodservice industry continues to grow.
Technomic's latest study shows that sandwich chain business grew 5.7% from 2006 to 2007. That's compared with 3.9% growth for the foodservice industry as a whole.
Sandwiches continue to be a strong mainstay of restaurant fare, making up 31% of all limited-service restaurant entrees and 15% of entrees at full-service restaurants, the research shows.
“Opportunity is there for supermarkets,” Tristano said. “They can offer strong competition with a good, high-quality sandwich program.”