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High quality, preservative-free deli meats are favorite fillings for sandwiches today

The State of the


By Kathleen Furore

Sandwiches always have been staples in brown bag lunches and on restaurant menus…and their popularity shows no signs of waning.

According to the 2017 Sandwich Trends Keynote Report from Chicago-based foodservice and CPG research firm Datassential, 58 percent of adults pack a sandwich for lunch at least once a week, and 68 percent pack a sandwich for their kids. In addition, 69 percent of restaurants across the country offer sandwiches on their menus, and an impressive 71 percent of foodservice operators say they would pay more for premium deli meats.

Those numbers not only underscore how popular sandwiches are with today’s consumers, but also how meaty an opportunity the sandwich category can be for companies that purvey deli meats and prepared sandwiches for retail and foodservice clients.

“Sandwiches can be the perfect vehicle for leveraging a number of industry trends,” the report says.

Just what are some of those trends heating up the sandwich marketplace?

According to What’s in Store 2017, a report from the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA), “clean” and “clear” labels, as well as the stories behind the specialty meats shoppers are embracing, are driving deli meat trends.

“All generations—not just the younger ones—want more natural, organic, antibiotic-free, and non-GMO foods, as well as proper labeling,” the IDDBA report says.

“There is a growing interest in healthy, better-for-you ingredients (think all-natural meats, plant-based proteins, sprouted grain bread),” the Datassential report echoes.

That is exactly what Elliot Fread, president and founder of Bimmy's in Long Island City, New York, is finding. Bimmy’s offers a variety of premium sandwiches, wraps, panini and other fresh, prepared foods—all created with the company’s slogan and overriding philosophy in mind: “Food Made With Love.”

A Heightened Demand for Higher Quality

That awareness, and the resulting demand for more premium-style products, is creating an opportunity as well as a challenge for vendors like Bimmy's.

“I get calls from places that are not currently buying or making high quality product and now want it—but they don’t understand all that’s involved in making it,” Fread explains. “They say, ‘Elliot, I have customers who want better quality.’ Then I tell them how much it will cost and that it won’t last for two weeks on the shelf, and they say, ‘HOW MUCH?!‘ They want it inexpensively.
They are used to having thaw and serve sandwiches or MAP products that stay good for two weeks. But fresh products don’t have that long shelf life, and the retailers are scared. They’re afraid they are going to lose money because the sandwiches won’t last two weeks—they wonder ‘How bad will it hurt us if we can’t sell the sandwiches in two days?’”

“People definitely want to understand where their food is coming from, and they are interested in higher quality food,” says Fread, noting that Bimmy's has eliminated preservatives in all its products. “Consumers are getting smarter—I’m seeing this like never before. I go in and watch how consumers behave in stores. They pick up products, look at ingredients and nutritional statements. I was even on an airplane and saw people looking at the ingredients list on the bags of pretzels and cookies! There is a whole new realm of awareness…they’re looking for products that have as little processing and preservatives as possible.”

Elliot Fread

President and founder of Bimmy's
Long Island City, New York

“Food Made With Love.”

Classic Renditions, Global Flavors Trending in Sandwich Circles

Updated versions of long-time favorites and new interpretations of ethnic classics are heating up the sandwich scene.

Fread, for example, says Bimmy's #1 selling sandwich in the Northeastern U.S. is Roasted Turkey & Swiss On a 7-Grain Baguettete.

“Customers are leaning toward 7- and 8-grain breads and handheld breads and are getting away from commercial breads,” he says.

Other classics that remain favorites: “Grilled cheese sandwiches are a consumer favorite, ranking highest on the list of sandwich varieties people love. Close behind are other classics such as subs, chicken sandwiches, and Philly Cheesesteaks,” Datassential reports.

Some of the most recent (and perhaps the most interesting) entries in the sandwich category are those based on ethnic flavors.

“Globally-inspired sandwiches like bao and tortas have gained traction with U.S. consumers, as have cemitas, a type of torta originating from Puebla, Mexico, that ranked highest in a list of global sandwiches (46 percent of consumers want to try it),” the Datassential report explains.

And the Vietnamese favorite, the Banh Mi, has experienced a whopping 393 percent growth on restaurant menus over the past four years, Datassential reports.

“Ethnic sandwiches are absolutely a top trend,” agrees Fread, who sees Asian, Asian-fusion and South American/Latin as the most popular global flavors.

The Ham With Pickled Ginger & Asian Slaw, Thai Chicken Wrap, Chicken Mojito and Cuban Panini are among the ethnic-inspired offerings from Bimmy’s.

Weber Steps up to the Plate

The quality of the equipment used to slice and portion deli meats is essential to producing the
high-quality product consumers expect in their sandwiches today.

In the quest to find that kind of equipment, Bimmy’s turned to Weber and ultimately chose the company’’s 304 (now the 305) slicer.

Food safety and simplicity of operation were driving factors in the choice of the Weber machine, according to Fread, who feared it would be complicated to operate.

“I was afraid I would I have to hire a rocket scientist to use it,” he laughs. “But Weber came in and even trained our bilingual employees. The equipment is designed so whomever is operating it can’t hurt themselves—it shuts down automatically if someone opens any panel near a blade. The 304 also is able to slice our meats very thin, which helps from a production standpoint. And it slices and portions at the same time.”

The Weber Slicer 305 is the entry-level model for state-of-the-art slicing technology. Thanks to the intuitive Weber Power Control, Slicer 305 is easy to operate. The programmable touch screen assures rapid product changeovers, and the shear bar and side limit stop can be configured for the product width. Weber hygienic design ensures that the system is easy to clean.
Click here for more details.

With sandwich consumption up and ingredient profiles ever-changing, companies that deal in the sandwich category are in a prime position to capitalize on “…portable, convenient handheld” meal options, Datassential concludes.

All components are equally important 

The protein

The cheese

The bread

—Source: Datassential’s 2017 Sandwich Trends Keynote Report

What do consumers love most about sandwiches?
When asked to think back to their favorite sandwich, and to rank the importance of each ingredient, here’s what they said:

Sandwich Love

The Importance of Packaging

Did you know that 2/3 of sandwiches purchased away from home are eaten on the go? That means vendors can up their appeal to on-the-go customers by revamping sandwich packaging to cater to consumers who look to sandwiches as a convenient, on-the-go meal.

Consider creative packaging that caters to kids, like the monster-inspired sandwich packaging designed by Brazilian design firm Quadrante Brasil that allows for easy visibility of sandwich fillings.

—Source: Datassential’s 2017 Sandwich Trends Keynote Report

National Sandwich Day—Nov. 3—celebrates this popular hand-held convenience food named after John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich!

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