This National Sandwich Week we’re sharing our latest sandwich insights for the out of home market. We surveyed and spoke to consumers as well as operators to reveal what consumers are looking for from sandwiches and how preferences among Gen Y and Z consumers could shape the future of the category.

Here are our 5 key findings:

1. Hot sandwiches add value
According to our research the 3 most common words consumer associate with hot sandwiches are filling, premium and a treat. Hot sandwiches have become increasingly popular out of home thanks to innovative launches on the high street and their satisfying and portable nature. Recent research from the MCA Insights Food to Go briefing highlighted that 1/3rd consumers want to see more hot food to go. Toasted sandwiches and bagels can meet this demand and encourage customers to trade up.

2. Traditional fillings are preferred but added excitement is needed
Unsurprisingly fillings influence sandwich choice the most and traditional fillings remain the preferred ones. However, consumers think the sandwich category lacks excitement and are looking for fillings that deliver of flavour. Combining classic fillings with something different is the perfect way to add excitement. Consumers suggested serving them in a different carrier or adding new ingredients to the classics like a flavoured mayonnaise.

Millennials and Gen Z consumers in particular are looking for ‘something different’. They also included vegetables in their top 5 breakfast fillings with smoked salmon less popular with Gen Y and egg less popular with Gen Z.

Preferred fillings for breakfast overall Preferred fillings for lunch overall
Bacon Cooked meat
Egg Cheese
Sausage Fish
Cheese Salad / vegetables
Smoked salmon Breakfast fillings


3. Carriers count
Although sandwich fillings influence consumer choices more than carriers do, from a visual point of view carriers can create a point of difference. When we showed 500 coffee shop consumers pictures of bagels and the ones with seeded tops or cheese on top were the favourites. The majority of consumers perceive seeded breads as healthier and more premium as well as different.

We also noticed a difference in carrier preferences amongst Gen Y and Z consumers, highlighting the need to adapt sandwich offers to attract this consumer group. Bagels and wraps made it into the top 5 for these groups at breakfast, beating sliced bread.

Total preferred breakfast carriers Gen Y preferred breakfast carriers Gen Z preferred breakfast carriers
Rolls Bagel Bagel
Croissants Baguette Baguette
Baguettes Panini Croissant
Bagels Roll Roll
Sliced bread Wrap Wrap


4. Breakfast sandwiches are in demand
30% of consumers are choosing them once or twice a week and another 40% buy sandwiches for breakfast out of home at least twice a month. Breakfast fillings appeared in the top 5 lunch fillings highlighting demand for breakfast all day.

When choosing breakfast sandwiches taste is the most important factor to consumers but a breakfast sandwich also has to be served hot.

Other important factors are:

  • Variety of fillings
  • Healthier options
  • Seasonal / new options
  • Variety of carriers

5. The are 6 key attributes consumers look for to trade up in the sandwich category

  1. Premium brands
  2. Better quality ingredients
  3. Toasted or warm sandwich
  4. Premium carriers e.g. seeded, rye and more artisan
  5. Made by hand
  6. Nice packaging (not plastic)

About the research

The research took place in June 2017 and March 2018
Online surveys with over 500 out of home consumers
121 interviews with 50 consumers
6 operator interviews

Categories:   Research

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