Hazlewood Foods is continuing to exploit growth opportunities within the dynamic pre-packed sandwiches market in both the UK and abroad.

Believed to be the largest producer of pre-packed sandwiches in the world, Hazlewood Foods supplies nearly a quarter of the UK multiple retail sandwiches market, worth over £600 million at rsp, and a fifth of the burgeoning petrol forecourt market, valued at over £100 million. Hazlewood Foods’ expansion within the forecourt sandwiches arena has been impressive, having only entered this sector four years ago. Indeed, Hazlewood Foods has made rapid progress in developing its sandwich sales into the food service market to complement its multiple retail activity.

The company’s ability to deliver daily to the food service and forecourt sector nationwide has been key to its rapid growth in this area. Hazlewood Food Services, the chilled food distribution arm, operates a network of twelve regional warehouses which has allowed Hazlewood Foods to significantly improve the quality and technical standard of the sandwiches being offered on the forecourts. Having recently opened three new out-based distribution locations, Hazlewood Foods is now completing over 15,000 deliveries a week.

UK Sandwiches Market

The UK commercially prepared sandwiches market is growing at between 7% and 8% per annum and is currently worth about £3.3 billion with pre-packed products generating about 60% of total sales. The UK has the highest per capita consumption of sandwiches in the world and over two billion commercially prepared sandwiches are eaten each year (see “£3 Billion Commercial Sandwiches Market Continues to Spread” in Food & Drink Business, February 2000 issue). Sandwiches are available through a wide variety of channels including works canteens, multiple retailers, cafe and snack bars, sandwich bars, retail forecourts, pubs, independent retailers and office delivery rounds. By successfully targeting the expanding multiple retail sector and the faster growing garage forecourt sector, Hazlewood Foods has managed to consistently outperform the market as a whole.

Pioneering Role

The improvement in the quality and variety of sandwiches offered to consumers has been behind the sustained growth of the commercially prepared sandwiches market in the UK, and Hazlewood Foods has played a pioneering role in this process. The company has been able to benefit from encouraging consumers to trade up to more expensive products and to try more exotic sandwiches featuring different types of breads and more sophisticated fillings.


Hazlewood Foods has proved very adept at not only responding to changing consumer demands for more exotic fillings and speciality breads, but in also setting market trends. For example, last year, in conjunction with a major customer, Hazlewood developed a range of sandwiches offering consumers a broad choice, including Extra Filling, Something Special, Lighter Filling and Reduced Calorie.

Innovation is key to success in the sandwiches market. As well as developing new variants with its customers, Hazlewood Foods has also introduced a totally new concept into the sandwiches/handheld snacks market with its Breadwinner ‘Conewich’. A bread-based cone featuring a range of fillings, Breadwinner Conewich is a one handed snack which won the British Sandwich Association Product of the Year Award in 1999.

Acquisition of Breadwinner

Already the leading supplier to the UK multiple retail market, Hazlewood Foods substantially consolidated its position within the UK pre-packed sandwiches market with the £14 million acquisition of Breadwinner Foods in early 1998 (see “Hazlewood Fills Gap in Sandwich Business with Breadwinner” in Food & Drink Business, January 1998 issue). Breadwinner was formed in 1979 by brothers Peter and John Bartlett and at the time of the acquisition was producing 275,000 sandwiches a week, mainly for the food service sector. Operating from a factory at Park Royal in London, Breadwinner had achieved pre-tax profits of £200,000 on sales of £9.3 million in the previous year. Hazlewood Foods’ current total output – including Breadwinner, its other UK operations and two plants in mainland Europe – is about 3 million sandwiches a week.

Branded Presence

In addition to providing greater access to the food service market, the Breadwinner acquisition also netted Hazlewood Foods a strong brand to enhance it predominantly retailer own label business. Pioneered by Marks & Spencer since the 1980s, the retail sandwiches market is still dominated by retailer own brands, which account for over 80% of sales. Although Marks & Spencer is still the market leader in the retail sandwiches market, other companies such as Tesco, Sainsbury, Safeway, Asda, Boots and Shell have been rapidly closing the gap.

The Breadwinner brand is positioned at the premium end of the sandwiches market and has been further strengthened by the launch of a Connoisseur range, which encourages consumers to ‘go out to lunch at your desk’. The range includes exotic fillings such as Asian Fusion Chicken with mizzuna leaves and Poached Salmon with sugar pickled cucumber and lemon leaves.Since the purchase of Breadwinner, Hazlewood Foods has invested in developing the Park Royal factory along with its other sandwich operations.

Planned Capacity Expansion

The Breadwinner acquisition significantly increased Hazlewood Foods’ sandwiches production capacity, but continuing gains in the multiple retail sector and even more dramatic growth within food service have now filled this. Sandwich sales increased by 13% in the first half of its current financial year, and to facilitate future growth Hazlewood Foods is planning to build a new factory which is due to be operational by late summer. Based at Manton Wood in Worksop, the new facility will increase capacity and replace Hazlewood Foods’ existing sandwiches production unit in the town.

Spreading Overseas

Although still relatively immature, the market for pre-packed sandwiches in continental Europe is developing rapidly. Realising this potential, Hazlewood Foods is intent upon capitalising on its technological expertise and innovation in sandwich production to exploit the rising demand in continental Europe – for instance, the Dutch sandwich market has more than trebled since 1996. The convenience food manufacturer has established a manufacturing presence in Holland and Germany and now enjoys leading positions in these markets.

Strategy for Driving Growth

Sandwiches is one of five key drive categories – the others being ready meals, pizza, quiche and recipe sauces – in which Hazlewood Foods holds strong market positions and which are exhibiting healthy growth, fuelled by the increasing consumer demand for an ever widening choice of top quality convenience foods. Through investment in product innovation and new technology to maintain a low cost manufacturing base, Hazlewood Foods is committed to either retaining or attaining market leadership in its chosen drive categories. In addition to its pre-eminence in sandwiches, Hazlewood also holds 32% of the own label retail market in recipe sauces, 21% of the UK chilled ready meals sector, 25% of chilled pizza sales and 32% of the quiche market. Hazlewood Foods is also a major producer of snacks, cakes and desserts, and delicatessen products. It is Europe’s largest horticultural glasshouse grower, and is the leading UK supplier of pot herbs and cress with market shares of 90% and 60% respectively.

Hazlewood Foods has completely restructured and refocused its business since the early 1990’s. The company has moved away from unpredictable, commodity-type product sectors and instead concentrated on added-value food categories, capable of sustaining strong and consistent growth. Consequently, the group has divested businesses, such as shellfish, potato processing, orange juice, coleslaw and more recently UK cooked meats, which did not meet these criteria. Hazlewood Foods is now geared towards becoming a leading European manufacturer of private label convenience foods.

“Our strategy of concentrating on attractive, growing food categories continues to guide our investment priorities. Costs are being reduced across the company, and capacity selectively expanded in areas where we have demonstrated competitive advantage,” says Peter Barr, chairman of Hazlewood Foods. “Although the retail environment is very competitive, the group remains on track.”