By Andrew Phelps – Catering & Hospitality Service manager, Cardiff Metropolitan University

According to the British Sandwich Association, UK consumers munched their way through an incredible 3.5 billion sandwiches last year costing us £7.85bn.

A report by Eating Better released last week called for all food businesses to offer a good selection of varied, tasty, healthy and sustainable sandwiches. This is based on new government advice on healthy eating (Eatwell Guide) which urges us to add more plant based choices, without meat, fish, cheese or egg, into our sandwich menus. The survey of 620 sandwiches in 12 retailers found only 17 were plant-based, meaning people looking for a healthy, environmentally-friendly sandwich have a very limited choice.

Eating Better did identify companies improving their range, including the likes of Pret a Manger which is increasing its “not just for veggies” range”. The survey indicates that a move towards a more diverse food offering with healthy eating and lifestyle being the key driver from the analysis.

With today’s consumers being laser-focused on saving money and time they demand low prices and portable, handheld snacks. They also desire fresh, new, interesting ingredients with a street food feel with flavour and texture combinations to tantalise their taste buds.

At Cardiff Met we use two national sandwich suppliers and one local supplier. We introduced an Eatwell sandwich range four years ago working with two of the national suppliers to create a healthy sandwich range. In terms of sales we have seen a significant move towards healthier sandwiches using different breads with an increasing demand for vegetarian sandwiches and deli artisan bread lines made to order.

In September we introduced an authentic high street deli bar offer. The deli’s core business is selling different styles of breads wholemeal, granary, paves and bagels with a choice of local seasonal fillings that include vegetarian and non-meat products. From nine months of trading we have noticed an increase in sales of home-made lines that are outselling the premade sandwiches purchased from the national suppliers.

In terms of up selling healthier products we introduced the following actions to keep things healthy and sustainable:

  • Promote healthy meal deal deals in a prominent position within your unit
  • Don’t over price healthy products
  • Offer tasting sessions on healthy vegetarian lines and plant based products
  • Make sandwiches on site using fresh, local ingredients with wholemeal breads
  • Link sell healthy sandwiches with fruit promotions
  • Promote #meetfreelunch campaign

At the tender stage if contracting out your sandwich contract please specify the following

  • At the tender stage specify quality over price with more healthy and vegetarian ranges to be provided by the sandwich supplier
  • Demand the sandwich supplier provide healthy sandwich ranges
  • Specify that nutritional information is included on the packaging of all sandwiches
  • Specify at the tender stage sandwich manufactures must only use of MSC fish, free range eggs, Red tractor meet and leaf products within their full range.
  • Look at quality of product before the price.

Although the survey is quite critical of the pre bought sandwiches produced in the UK we also have to recognise the challenge they face in terms of creating a sustainable product that looks attractive and is commercially viable for the caterer to sell.

From my own perspective, the catering industry needs to play its part in taking some of the blame for driving some of the products currently on sale through the UK. We demand the cost price of sandwiches is low to increase profit margins. We also encourage a two to three day shelf life on sandwiches which influences the sandwich manufactures to use mayonnaise products to lengthen the life of the product.

If the sandwich industry is to change we must help with this process to help shape the future and what the consumer desires!  And increasingly, that is a healthier plant based option.