Sandwiches are as popular as ever, filling the void for convenient, lower-ticket products and, with so much varied and adventurous competition on the food to go front, operators need to maximise their sandwich offering to capture customers’ imaginations and keep them coming back for more.

Today’s sandwiches have evolved dramatically from their humble beginnings, taking inspiration from global and street food trends, with carriers coming in a vast array of formats.

Why are they called sandwiches? 

The modern sandwich is said to be named after Lord John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. A ‘dedicated’ gambler, he didn’t like to take time out from the game to have a meal and would therefore ask casino waiters to bring him slices of meat between two slices of bread.

Have your fill

Keeping a good range of the tried and trusted ‘favourites’ on the menu is a wise option, but the addition of some more on trend offerings is advised too. Street food influences provide a great source of inspiration for sandwich and snack updates. It can be as simple as using a tasty dressing or an exotic marinade to lift a plain sandwich to new heights. Nowadays, creating sandwiches with on trend fillings is relatively easy as there are new products coming onto the market all the time inspiring exciting flavour combinations that satisfy the tastes of the ever more adventurous consumer.

“When it comes to creating these fillings, products like the Major Mari Bases can help to make life easier as they can be used to marinade proteins or as a base for sauces and dressings,” says Fergus Martin, executive development chef for Major International. “For example, you could use the Major Mediterranean Mari Base to create an Italian-inspired Muffaletta sandwich, or you could create a Korean Chicken Wrap by using the Major Korean Mari Base to marinade your chicken and to create a sauce for your filling.”

Breakfast Butties

Breakfast is booming when it comes to eating out, so adapt your sandwich offering to this day-part with a tasty, substantial and exciting meal deal – and make it an all-day breakfast. ‘To have better quality food’ is the fastest growing consumer mission or primary reason for eating breakfast out of home. And there’s a big fall for toasted muffin at breakfast, compared to the same time the preceding year, which sees the sandwich steal 2nd spot behind full English (MCA Eating Out Panel October 2018).

Capture breakfast fans on the run with an inspiring meal deal – a drink and a breakfast sandwich, accompanied by hot, tasty and substantial sides, such as Lamb Weston’s range of hash browns.

Croissants work well as breakfast carriers. “They can be complemented with ontrend fillings such as egg, bacon and spinach for an all-day breakfast option, ham and cheese for a familiar favourite, or mozzarella, tomato and rocket for a classic Italian filling,” says Kate Sykes, of Lantmännen Unibake. “Or why not try chocolate spread and sliced fruit to appeal to those seeking a truly indulgent treat?”

It’s a wrap!

A survey by Spitalfields Market at the end of last year revealed that wraps were the second favourite lunchtime option for UK consumers, following salads.

Says Gordon Lauder, MD of frozen food distributor Central Foods: “Wraps are popular for a number of reasons. They suit a range of fillings, hot and cold, they look tempting and delicious when displayed on a counter, and they are easy to eat as a takeaway or grab-and-go option, as well as in a café or sit-down catering outlet.”

Wraps come in a range of flavours too, with Central Foods’ KaterBake range including eye-catching pumpkin, beetroot and spinach varieties.

Get carried away …

“When designing a new sandwich, don’t just concentrate on the filling, think bread pairing,” says Simon Cannell of Speciality Breads. “Sandwich fillings are definitely becoming more adventurous but many caterers do not give proper consideration to the carrier. The right bread showcases the filling, which in turn improves the appearance, taste and ultimate enjoyment of the sandwich.

“The carrier the caterer chooses needs to perform excellently and exceptionally with the filling. Over the last year, we have been working closely with a number of businesses to enhance their sandwich and sharing platter offer. The humble brie and red onion marmalade filling, joins another league when served in our Cranberry Pan Rustic. Likewise, roast beef, horseradish and rocket, paired with our Sourdough and Onion Roll is pure sandwich heaven.”

Traditional white and brown bread recipes are being replaced with more elaborate flavours and textures, with the addition of seeds and grains supplied in a variety of interesting shapes and sizes, says Chris Dickinson, new business development director, Pan’Artisan. “The influence of world cuisines on flavours and styles is prolific, with breads such as Lebanese and Turkish flatbreads appearing as sandwich carriers and meal accompaniments with and without inclusions.”

Meanwhile, the baguette has improved its share of occasions across breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacking and is now the third most popular savoury bakery item accounting for 3.9% share of visits, says Kate Sykes, of Lantmännen Unibake.

“Our range of Schulstad Bakery Solutions Rusticata baguettes and rolls are all made with extra virgin olive oil and semolina flour and are stone-baked for a fuller flavour.”

Bloomers are also sought after, and last year Kara re-launched and expanded its range to include three new thick slice options and a new flavour – sunflower and oat – taking the total range up to seven.

Clever condiments

The Opies’ professional range provides caterers with ingredients and accompaniments that complement dishes across the menu, which helps to save both time and money, explains Daniel Duprat, the company’s foodservice manager.

“Our range of chutneys, which are all vegan friendly, are versatile and perfect whether used as a base of sandwiches set for carnivores, cheese fiends or flexitarians. For example, our red onion chutney with Balsamic Vinegar works just as well with artisan cheese as it does with tasty falafel.

“Opies’ Bramley Apple Chutney with Real Ale or the Spicy Tomato Chutney would be great to act as an accompaniment to bitter foods like char-grilled meats, which are also supposed to soar in popularity this year. The delicate flavours of Pear Chutney with White Wine and robust Bramley Apple with Cider complete this high quality range of savoury preserves.”

Along with chutneys, gherkins and cocktail onions offer texture and crunch to sandwiches. Try adding gherkins to pepp up an ordinary egg and cress, and cocktail onions to a humble cheese and ham sandwich

Free from

The FreeFrom market is huge so it’s important that your sandwich offering caters for diners demanding glutenfree, lactose-free, vegetarian and vegan options.

“Consumers, especially Millennials, seek clean labels and transparency of ingredients; this is top of mind when developing our range of products,” says Pan’Artisan’s Chris Dickinson. “For example, removing gluten alters taste and texture making the dough less elastic and harder to process; breads can become dry, with a poor crust and a shorter shelf-life, we strive to manage this for our operators and deliver against taste expectations.”