As you cannot have failed to notice, this week is British Sandwich Week, which features the British Sandwich Designer of the Year competition and the Sammies Awards. Sandwiches are of course a British staple and with the food-on-the-go market continuing to grow, out-stripping the rest of the eating out market, according to the British Sandwich Association, sandwiches currently contribute a staggering £7.85bn to the UK economy and around £4.4bn to the food on-the-go sector*. They have come a long way from the humble white bread sandwich, with the sector embracing bagels, wraps, speciality breads, open sandwiches and much, much more. Indeed, sandwiches are seen on menus across practically all sectors of the foodservice market proving popular across the board. Interestingly Kantar research have identified that sandwich penetration (in and out of home) is currently running at 79% which means there are 9 million consumers in the UK who are yet to be converted – so there is still a good opportunity for growth. Indeed, 70% of us spend over £3 on a sandwich, with the BLT topping the chart of fillings, although chicken has the broadest appeal in all its forms. Surprisingly hot drinks are more likely to accompany a sandwich than cold drinks and cake is twice as likely to accompany a sandwich than crisps although 40% are eaten on their own. Two thirds of us have a sandwich at least once a week, but the real opportunity for those selling sandwiches out of home is, as ever, to drive more consumers to choose sandwiches more often and trade up to higher priced, more premium options by inspiring them with innovative new flavours and formats. As to what a sandwich looks like these days, well the sky is the limit and the British Sandwich Designer of the Year Award showcases just that.
With the offer of a day up in town at the Lancaster London sampling some of the best sandwiches in the country it seemed sheer madness to refuse. The event was hosted by Gethin from the BSA who did a sterling job, taking us through the thirty different competitor sandwiches split into six rounds (excuse the pun) each having to incorporate one of the sponsor’s products into their creation. Having showcased some of the finalists on Sunday Brunch with some controversial opinions expressed by Piers Morgan (no surprises there) as to what constitutes a sandwich, it is fair to say the contestants were keen to push the traditional boundaries in their quest to develop the most innovative, and of course delicious, sandwich. From venison to sushi, scotch eggs to sage, not to mention a ‘French Dip’, Chipotle & Mexican flavours and Indian street food, it was all there to see and taste. The only observation that could be made was the absence of much in the way of vegetarian or vegan options (indeed Eating Better found in recent research that only 4% of 500 sandwiches were plant based) also free-from options to cater for the growing demand from consumers seemed thin on the ground, which has to be front of mind for caterers in light of the allergen legislation. That said the day was a triumph and you never know perhaps they’ll add additional categories next year to cover off these areas.
You can see the finalist recipes here, but be warned they will make you hungry! It was a tough job that respected chef Theo Randall and his fellow judges had on their hands to decide on the winner for each of the six rounds and of course the overall winner of Sandwich Designer of the Year. However, they managed it and the winner was announced at the Sammies Awards ceremony in the evening. Congratulations go to Nathan Baker from On a Roll who won British Sandwich Designer of the Year with his pulled cooked venison sandwich. Personally I had a soft spot for the chicken and tarragon brioche, but I have to say the venison was delicious as well.
Well done to the British Sandwich Association on a great week and a great event! To find out more about the BSA visit their website here.