Sandwiches give c-stores opportunities for innovation, with multiple options available in terms of sandwich types and toppings.
At Neon Marketplace, which has seven sites in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, customers can choose from customizable grinders, signature sandwiches, grilled or fried chicken sandwiches and burgers.
“I’m really seeing (sandwiches) expand to things that you might get at a fast-food restaurant, like think burgers and chicken sandwiches … On top of that, I’m seeing a focus on freshness,” said Elise Babey, senior manager of product development and supply chain, Neon Marketplace.
Spicewood, Texas-based TXB, which operates 48-plus locations in Texas and Oklahoma, is also seeing a trend toward freshness.
“Healthy on-the-go options are always popular at our stores, and our sandwiches are made with healthy bread baked locally in Texas. We’re doing a complete makeover with our cold grab-and-go items, including our sandwiches — we could even be moving to a commissary soon. Customers (are) looking for fresh-made sandwiches, with premium-style bread,” said Kevin Smartt, CEO of TXB.
TXB expects a 5% increase in sandwich sales in 2023, touting variety and freshness as its biggest selling points. It plans to rotate different sandwiches each quarter.
“Given the recent inflationary hits to food commodity prices, sandwiches are still an area that most consumers can afford to eat multiple times a week and do it in a very healthy manner,” said Smartt.
He believes sandwiches will bring value to the customer in 2023.
Babey also predicted growth for the category, specifically with sandwiches made on-site.
2023 Brings Change
Neon Marketplace is planning big changes in the sandwich category for 2023, including baking its bread in-house.
“So you’re going to have a really delicious, freshly baked crunchy Italian roll on your grinders,” said Babey. “And up here in the New England area, I think that is going to be something that the customers enjoy, and it’s also something that they’re used to…”
Neon Marketplace is also trying to use new foodservice technology in the category. For example, it’s installing clamshell griddles.
“We cook all of our burgers to order from raw, and the griddle presses on it and sears both sides, and you can get a perfectly cooked burger in under three minutes every single time,” said Babey.
At TXB, one of the initiatives the chain is focusing on is reviewing enhanced packaging options for its cold grab-and-go items. Since it’s attempting to move toward a more sustainable footprint, finding packaging that maintains the freshness of the product at its optimum level while adhering to TXB’s sustainability goals is “a high priority and a big challenge,” Smartt said.