Sandwiches are one area where consumers tend to become adventurous—the place where they express a willingness to try new flavors and ingredients.

In its 2012 “Sandwich Consumer Trend Report,” Technomic found more than one in three consumers (34%) say they are more likely to try new and unique flavors and ingredients on sandwiches compared to other types of food. That percentage climbs to 38% for those aged 18–24 and all the way up to 46% for those aged 25–34. (See chart “Youth Quake.”) Younger consumers, in general, tend to be more adventurous when it comes to new and unique foods, and sandwiches are no exception.  

Youth Quake

This fact makes sandwiches a menu category ripe for research and development efforts. New product developers have room to experiment with trend-forward flavors by offering them as subtle twists on popular or traditional sandwich builds. They can introduce new flavors to consumers through breads, toppings or sauces, or by incorporating unexpected ingredients. A few recent examples from restaurant operators:

• Atlanta Fish Market’s Atlantic Salmon BLT features caper mayonnaise.

• Bar Louie’s Turkey, Ham & Brie sandwich is prepared with blackberry jam.

• Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano’s Biaggi’s Club is made with sun-dried-tomato aïoli.

• Camille’s Sidewalk Café’s Turkey Habañero Panini is spread with mango-habañero dressing.

Restaurant concepts that specialize in ethnic cuisines may want to consider offering sandwiches as a way to lure less-adventuresome diners. Consumers who do not normally try new or unique foods may be more open to trying them in the familiar sandwich format. The Kati Roll Company, a limited-service chain based in New York, offers consumers Indian flavors in wrap formats. The Shami Kabab Roll, for example, features minced lamb and lentil patties with herbs and spices on a choice of paratha or roti bread. In a similar vein, restaurants looking to increase their ethnic offerings might consider starting with a few sandwiches with ethnic flavor profiles. Some recent examples:

• Le Pain Quotidien serves a Vietnamese Chicken Tartine sandwich prepared with pickled carrots, radish, cilantro and chili aïoli.

• Bear Rock Café offers a Giant Panda Wrap, featuring grilled chicken breast, Oriental sesame dressing, salad greens, tomatoes, red onions, red peppers, cucumbers, mushrooms and chow mein noodles in a whole-wheat tortilla.

Knowing that consumers, especially younger ones, are most receptive to trying out new flavors and ingredients in sandwiches, menu and product developers tasked with crafting new offerings should be thinking of ways to put fresh and innovative spins on classic sandwiches. pf