Sandwiches account for at least 25% of the foodservice offerings at Nittany Oil’s MiniMart, which operates 27 stores in Pennsylvania, said Angela Gearhart, the chain’s food service category manager. The category keeps growing for the stores and continued to do so on the premade grab-and-go side even during the pandemic.
Sandwich consumption has remained steady and overall increased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, noted Gerald Oksanen, project manager on the content team at research firm Datassential. He also foresees continued growth in the sandwich category, especially in the grab-and-go realm.
He explained that consumers will continue to count on grab-and-go sandwiches as quick and convenient meal solutions.
“But I believe made-to-order sandwiches, even in places where they took a hit since the onset of the pandemic, will be an increasing area of growth, as well,” Oksanen said.
Gearhart noted that she expects her stores’ made-to-order sandwiches to increase in sales as the pandemic subsides. “We’ll see those sales growing as people become less afraid of someone touching their food,” she said.
Gearhart predicted breads will continue to be a big focus as an increasing number of customers opt for pretzel or wheat rolls, flatbreads and wraps.
“We offer different options, such as pancake and waffle sandwiches,” she said. “We do a lot of sandwiches on plain bread — it’s amazing how many people like their sandwiches on plain bread.”
Based on a December 2020 Sandwich Keynote Report, 35% of consumers said they liked “unique carriers” like waffles or doughnuts for their sandwiches. Twenty-four percent of consumers also said they would pay more for a sandwich carrier made with whole grains, while another 45% said they would be more likely to purchase this sort of item, but not pay more for it.
Consumers named premium meats (35%) and specialty cheeses (48%) as desired sandwich ingredients. They also demonstrated an interest (34%) in globally influenced varieties like banh mi or tortas.
Chicken sandwiches continue to be very hot, with fried chicken sandwiches showing up on 29% more menus, and spicy chicken sandwiches up 27% between Q3 2018 and Q3 2021, reported Sydney Riebe, associate analyst – U.S. Food and Drink at research firm Mintel. In Mintel’s “Trending on U.S. Menus: Sandwiches, Subs and Wraps, 2022,” pita sandwiches also appeared on 55% more menus, correlating with the increased interest in fresh and flavorful Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods.
An increasing number of customers are looking to put a little extra spice in their sandwiches with condiments, Gearhart said. MiniMart offers a selection including Boom Boom sauce, Buffalo hot sauce and hot pepper relish.