CHICAGO -- Technomic has been tracking trending flavors for quite some time now, watching as they evolve from the introductory stage into a menu mainstay. One category that consistently invites innovation and creativity is the sandwich category. While traditional sandwich varieties remain hallmarks of most menus, consumer curiosity about bigger, bolder flavors continues to nudge sandwich-menu development toward innovation.
But as we look beyond flavor, we now wonder which sandwich ingredients are currently emerging on the innovation scale? According to Technomic’s most recent menu data, chicken and bacon are, by far, the most popular proteins on sandwiches, but what’s next?
Technomic’s Lifecycle tool, an enhancement to its MenuMonitor trend-tracking platform, has been monitoring flavors through their stages of adoption, and now boasts an additional 30 or more ingredient types to analyze. As a dynamic part of MenuMonitor, it can pull predictive insights on a limitless range of dishes in seconds.
According to recent research performed with Lifecycle, some specific sandwich components are now emerging as innovators. The results of this research reveal some interesting findings. For example, tofu is now the leading cutting-edge protein used in sandwiches. It’s one ingredient entering the introductory stage as a sandwich protein that can easily adapt to multiple flavor profiles while communicating health and wellness to sandwich lovers who may not be fans of meat.
As for next-level cheeses, condiments and breads, ingredients such as Muenster cheese, truffle aioli and English muffins were also identified as the latest topping innovators in the sandwich category. English muffins as new and innovative sandwich carriers may seem a bit surprising, but Technomic often finds that ingredients can be mainstream in some meal categories, while being unique and competitive in others.
A prime example of this would be chipotle mayonnaise. When paired with chicken sandwiches, chipotle mayo is typically found in the mainstream part of the lifecycle, but adding the ingredient to steak sandwiches places it on the introductory and growth scale.
In the convenience-store segment, sandwiches are up in terms of sheer number of items by more than 4% year over year. Top sandwich varieties that continue to increase their presence on the menu include chicken wraps, steak sandwiches and wraps, and Buffalo chicken sandwiches; understanding the emerging toppings and trending flavors—and how to creatively apply them—for these and other sandwiches can help c-store operators tap into the latest consumer preferences for this legacy category.