In recent market research, the British Sandwich Association defined the sandwich as: “Any form of bread with a filling, generally assembled cold, to include traditional wedge sandwiches as well as filled rolls, baguettes, pitta, bloomers, wraps, bagels and the like, but not burgers and other products assembled and consumed hot.”

It is a contentious issue amongst sandwich makers in the UK that McDonalds has started referring to its burgers as sandwiches. This aside, the market is enormously diverse with an ever increasing array of products on sale. In fact one of the biggest branded retailers of sandwiches in the UK is Upper Crust, which sells nothing but filled baguettes.

The underlying trends behind the success of the sandwich industry in the UK can be found in most of the economies of Europe. As the world progresses, people are demanding foods which fit their lifestyles – that can be consumed on the move (or at a desk), that are healthy and appetising, and that offer variety and interest. The choice of ingredients which can be put together in a sandwich is virtually limitless – so you can literally eat a sandwich every day and eat something different every day. No other fast food can offer this versatility.

Moreover, with innovative and exotic sandwiches accounting for some 30 per cent of sandwich sales, there is a never ending demand for new ideas and ingredients to keep consumers interested. Hence British producers are looking more and more at ideas and ingredients from other European markets which they can develop into their ranges.

As Jim Winship of the British Sandwich Association says: “The opportunities for the sandwich industry across Europe are, I believe, enormous. Through the European Sandwich Makers Association we are working to bring the whole industry together, to share knowledge and ideas that will help this vast market grow positively, as well as to establish guidelines that will help to ensure that consumers get the very best from the industry.

“I have absolutely no doubt that the sandwich is here to stay and will grow to become one of the most important foods of our time. Indeed, as we have seen in the UK, the sandwich has become the lifestyle product of the New Age.”

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Dominique Mine, managing director of FFB Communication, agrees that the sandwich is the ideal European snack: “When David and Jim came to me with their project of launching the European Sandwich Show in Paris, I took to the idea immediately; considering the growing development in the French sandwich and snack industry, it seemed to me a very interesting challenge.

“Even if the market in France, with its own development characteristics is notably different to the English market, the reasons for the increasing consumption of sandwiches and snacks are the same.”

The sandwich is profiting from changing lifestyles where time (or lack of it) is becoming increasingly important. The sandwich is taking the place of the traditional office lunch, at university or while travelling, but is also being consumed in people’s free time because they can be eaten on the move.

Adds Mine: “In France, we consume over one and half million sandwiches each day. In 1999 the total market was estimated at 615 million sandwiches (9.6bn francs) and is in constant progression. This represents an increase of over 50 per cent compared to 1992 (six billion francs and 400m sandwiches).”

This average growth rate of six per cent per year hides important disparities. On the one hand, the major players (bakers, bars and bistros) of this sector have remained relatively static which has slowed the global growth of the market while on the other hand sandwich chains are seeing an increase of around ten per cent and large retailers are seeing growth of over 15 per cent. With regard to industrial sandwiches alone, volumes have increased twofold between 1992 and 1999, from 56m to 120m sandwiches.

New fast food concepts are springing up in all towns in France, all based around sandwiches (French baguettes, English sliced bread sandwiches, American bagels and Italian paninis). Obviously the filled baguette has remained the focal point for French consumers.
And Mine endorses the generally held opinion that France holds the key to the sandwich market in Europe: “The sandwich industry is currently evolving at a tremendous rate with numerous operators playing the market and more and more newcomers arriving. The industry now represents a significant economic force, using more than 50,000 tonnes of raw materials per year. This demonstrates real opportunities for the supplying industry.”