CHICAGO -- Americans’ busy schedules have correlated with the proliferation of one of the most versatile portable entrees in foodservice: the sandwich.
About two in five sandwiches are sourced away from home, according to Technomic’s 2018 Sandwich Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite. That’s a whopper of an opportunity for retailers.
However, as fast-casual restaurants such as Jersey Mike’s and Modern Market optimize the convenience and freshness of their sandwich offerings, convenience stores need to think bigger than ham and cheese to win over consumers.
Here are four ways c-stores can create sandwiches that are a cut above the rest ...
1. Partner up
Although, the word “customize” tends to get foodservice operators salivating, some eateries are forgoing made-to-order sandwiches for chef-driven, signature creations. One-of-a-kind handhelds could help retailers differentiate themselves, considering that 40% of millennials strongly agree that chains all offer very similar sandwiches, according to the report. New York's Make Sandwich offers chef-crafted specialties such as Turkey + Gouda, which combines roasted turkey, smoked cheese, pickled apples and chili-celery mayo.
This trend has already spread to c-stores. Pilot Flying J, Knoxville, Tenn., has partnered with Texas celebrity chef Tim Love for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, among other menu items. Two Dallas-area stores are stocking the limited-time offer, which is made with organic peanut butter and grape jelly on white potato bread.
2. Break out the breakfast sandwich
More limited-service foodservice operators are selling breakfast sandwiches morning, noon and night, according to the report. As a result, breakfast sandwich proteins such as chicken (up 28.9%) and brisket (up 33.3%) are on the rise, adding a stronger value proposition for consumers at lunch and dinner. Adding a more premium profile to sandwiches, 20% more operators are layering breakfast sandwiches with lox compared to 2015, according to the report.
3. Capitalize on convenience
C-stores have a leg up on some other sandwich slingers, because they’re built for quick, convenient transactions. About 32% of consumers purchase a sandwich because of its on-the-go appeal, according to the report. Older consumers are especially driven by value and convenience, compared to their younger counterparts, who are nearly 10% more likely to prioritize healthfulness.
Designing menu items and gearing options with delayed consumption in mind might help get more time-pressed customers in the door. In fact, 42% of consumers like to have the option of receiving condiments on the side to prevent soggy breads, according to the report. By creating sandwiches with lasting power, c-stores could drive more customers to tack a sandwich onto their morning coffee order, for example.
4. Dare to be different
Innovating with fresh protein, sauce and bread options can also help turn sandwich lovers’ heads. Flying on the tailwinds of heath-focused and global food trends, the variety of sandwich proteins, such as capicola and Genoa salami, are trending up on menus, according to the report. More sustainable meat alternatives are also increasingly important to Gen Z and millennial consumers, according to the report. Even White Castle, Columbus, Ohio, has added a vegetarian Impossible Slider, made from a blend of wheat, coconut oil, potato and leghemoglobin, a plant-based protein responsible for the “bloody” appearance of the meat.
Buzzed-about ancient grains and the explosion of international flavors have also lead to some carb-centric experimentation. Indian fast casuals are heightening the familiarity of fresh-baked Indian breads. For instance, San Francisco-based Curry Up Now places mashed potato fritters between square, Mumbai-style pav buns.