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As the supermarket fresh prepared department commands greater focus among consumers, retailers should turn their attention to evolving shopper tastes for the classic meal solution – the sandwich – according to research firm Datassential.
Datassential's MenuTrends Keynote Sandwich report finds that nearly 90 percent of consumers report eating a sandwich within the past week, the majority of which are prepared at home from ingredients purchased from a retailer.
According to the survey, when asked which ingredients define "A truly great" sandwich, 42 percent of consumers chose the bread as the most important component, with upscale offerings like brioche, pretzel and ciabatta gaining steam among shoppers.
Some 38 percent said meat/protein is the most important factor, with turkey, ham and chicken identified as the most popular options.
"The sandwiches 'most eaten' by consumers are the traditional varieties such as turkey, ham, chicken and subs -- sandwiches with items that retailers already have at hand," Jennifer Aranas, Datassential project director, told Progressive Grocer. "'Most loved' varieties overlap with those that are most eaten and also include hot offerings such as steak, chicken, Philly, roast beef, grilled cheese and BBQ."
Consumers also scored Mexican tortas highly in terms of both familiarity and appeal, as well as regional specialty sandwiches like the Kentucky Hot Brown and New York's Beef on Weck.
'Customizable Sandwich Format'
For grocers looking to capitalize on these evolving trends, Aranas suggests taking a cue from innovative retail and restaurant operators, offering more customizable sandwich formats, and bundling them with prepared foods like soups and salads. "Retailers can stay abreast, or ahead of, trends by keeping an eye on independent sandwich operators and other innovators like food trucks and finer dining establishments where many food trends start.
"At-home sandwich consumption is a significant factor and by tracking restaurant offerings and trends … retailers can help bridge the gap between what consumers want and crave and what they may not be able to find or prepare at home," she said.
The findings from Datassential's report comprise thoughts on a range of sandwich options, flavors, ingredients and trends from more than 1,000 consumers.