Supermarkets eat into sandwich market, finds NPD Group

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The future looks challenging for traditional sandwich makers, as retailers, coffee shops, supermarkets and petrol stations expand their ranges to offer variety and value, backed by the convenience of availability at all times of the day.

That is the key finding of latest research from foodservice specialist, The NPD Group. Research from NPD shows consumers seeking value and convenience are the big winners at the moment. Growth in the take-away sandwich category has predominantly been in retail, supermarket, and petrol stations, where value and convenience are key features. At the same time, supermarkets and other retailers are increasing their number of outlets, putting them in direct competition with fast food players on the high street for sales at core meal times, including lunch and dinner.

The sandwich market is a significant one in the UK and in the 12 months ending June 2011, the number of sandwiches bought to eat out of the home grew by 87.6m (from 1.9bn to 2bn) – an increase of 4.5% over the same period to June 2010. Outlets gaining the most from the increased sales were pubs (where sandwich sales increased by 31.5m sandwiches), coffee shops (up by 27.4m sandwiches) and retail/supermarkets, selling 19.9m more sandwiches to eat on the go.

In the same period, quick service sandwich specialists achieved minor growth of 1% for the year ending June 2011, selling an extra 6.7m sandwiches, although their quick service bakery counterparts posted 4% growth for the same period; an increase of just over 7m sandwich servings.

Guy Fielding, NPD’s director of foodservice, said: “Non-sandwich specialists are offering the convenience of longer opening hours, a good choice of fillings at a wide range of price points and revolving menus that ensure variety. They are also packaging sandwiches and drinks into ‘meal deals’ for value and adding innovations such as smaller portions, half sandwiches, or ‘skinny’ offerings. Basically, they are making it possible to pick up a fresh, good value sandwich-based meal when and where we want, without going out of our way to buy it. It is a real step-change for this sector of the food market. ”