Consumers are now spending more on
commercially made sandwiches than any other fast food according to new research.

Moreover, they are spending more on better
quality and more lavish sandwiches, with the value of the market rising faster than volume
sales, according to the British Sandwich Association.

The new research assesses the value of the
commercial market at £3.26bn and growing by around 13 per cent per annum, while volume is
around 2.2bn and growing by about nine per cent per annum. However, these averages
disguise major changes in the market. While some retailers have been enjoying growth rates
of twice these percentages, others have experienced nil or even negative growth.

The research, carried out independently by
Promar International for the BSA with sponsorship from Sainsbury’s, Ginsters and
Nestlé UK, is the second major study of the market undertaken by the Association. The
first, in 1997, was compiled in response to growing industry concerns over misleading data
being published about the market.

Involving a combination of 757 trade and
1,646 consumer interviews, the study is thought to be the most comprehensive yet on this
huge and diverse market. Issues covered range from market shares and favourite fillings,
to distribution, vending and consumer attitudes to sandwiches and those who sell them.

According to the research, while chicken is
the number one sandwich filling, some others which were once considered exotic are
steadily gaining volume share. Duck is now among the top five fillings with one major
retailer, and vegetarian (salad) sandwiches are now ranked amongst the overall top ten
fillings.

Pret a Manger has ousted Marks &
Spencer from top spot as the retail outlet selling the most sandwiches per store per week
in value terms. But Marks & Spencer remains overall market leader in the High Street.

Evidence of significant growth in the
convenience store sector suggests that these outlets could be a ‘stalking’
threat to the major multiples.

There is evidence that retailers are still
not making the most of the potential market for sales of accompaniments, with only cold
drinks showing significant sales. The report suggests a need for more aggressive
management.

Proportionately more women than men buy
commercially-made sandwiches, but they also demand more variety in their diets. On the
other hand, there is a distinct feeling among some older men that it is difficult to
source ‘just a plain sandwich’.

There is evidence that some retailers are
in danger of underestimating their customers. Caterers, in particular, are constrained by
the limitations they place on themselves. Yet they might be surprised by what some of
their customers say, says the report. Equally, retailers who overly limit their ranges
should be wary of the damage they can do to their markets in the longer term. Limited
choice in ‘distressed purchase’ conditions is a “sure-fire way to
discourage repeat purchase”.

Details of reports from Food Industry News Click Here