What's In A Sandwich?

Photo Credit: belairfoods.comSub. Hoagie. Panini. Grinder. Gyro. Wrap. Melt. Or, of course, The Burger.

No matter how you slice it, there’s no denying that sandwiches are making a meaty comeback. Ask any foodie who celebrates November 3rd, a day that has been dubbed National Sandwich Day. (November 3rd is the 4th Earl of Sandwich’s birthday, who didn’t actually invent the sandwich, but was the closest to it, as slated by historical records.) This American staple offers plenty of room for diversity and variation, which may be why the sandwich segment is the most recommended restaurant segment overall. Heavy growth on occasions and referral put the sandwich category at No. 1. Chefs have undoubtedly caught onto this, adding their own panache and pizzazz to America’s favorite comfort food.

Healthy, Fresh, Local.

As you’ve probably noticed, there’s been a newfound mass consciousness stressing the importance of local sourcing and produce on the food scene. Millennials - those born between 1982 and 1998 - are pioneering these trends, as they are the largest generation in American history thus far, making them the most targeted demographic for general brands. Millennials are worth about $1.72 trillion in spending power.

Throughout the past few years, key health awareness terms like organic, farm-to-table, locally sourced, and gluten-free have all become integrated into modern-day society, whether on a food label at the grocery store or on the menu at your favorite dining establishment. While Millennials are all about convenience (read: smartphone) and spending less, the demographic says they will splurge a bit more on fresh, healthy food. The rise and growth of how Whole Foods became the luxury brand of Millennials is a great example of this movement. In fact, the locally sourced organics food market was recently ranked No. 1 on Fortune’s ‘World’s Most Admired Companies’ list in the Food & Drug Stores sector. According to Fortune, Whole Foods has grown into an $11.7 billion company, with most of its growth taking place within the past decade. We’re seeing the evolution of sandwiches parallel to this healthy eating movement, as well.

Who’s Taking a Bite?

According to the Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI), the top demographics that engage with and/or visit one of the tracked 451 sandwich concepts are as follows:

-Gen Y/Millennial Females: 12% (Up 6% from 2011)

-Gen Y/Millennial Males: 18% (Up 2% from 2011)

-Gen X Females: 4% (Down 2.5% from 2011)

-Gen X Males: 13% (Down 1% from 2011)

-Boomer Females: 3% (Down 1% from 2011)

-Boomer Males: 17% (Down 1% from 2011)

It’s no wonder that mobile Millennials connect so well with the sandwich segment over other strong menu categories. Sandwiches are quick and convenient, fall at a decent price point, and are generally healthier, fresher and lighter than other menu fare. It’s a grab-and-go meal that can be enjoyed in a variety of different ways - hot or cold, grilled or toasted, and filled with any combination of ingredients your taste buds desire. Another plus is that sandwiches are easily customizable. Obviously Millennials aren’t the only ones taking a bite out of this segment; they’re just the most influential.

Emerging Sandwich Trends

While we can’t give everything away (look out for our Better Sandwich Segments Report*), one trend we’ve been seeing a lot more of in recent years is ethnic-inspired sandwiches. The Asian sandwich, known as the Banh Mi (pronounced bun-mee), which usually consists of head cheese and meat - chicken, pork, ham, or sausage - and garnished with mayo, daikon, pickled carrots, onion, cilantro, jalapeño and soy sauce on a crisp, airy French baguette, has been on the rise on the American scene. There has also been a lot of Mexican influence in the market (read: Fresh Mex), but Mexican-inspired sandwiches, like the torta, have been surprisingly under-served. 

Even American classics, like grilled cheese and hamburgers, are getting serious chef gourmet upgrades. In the Better Sandwich Segment, which includes burgers, we delve into the innovators of these concepts and which restaurants are banking on new and reviving sandwich and burger trends.

No matter your preference, simple or sophisticated, there’s no denying that in the modern world, all sandwiches are not created equal. And that’s a beautiful thing.

*For a more flavorful helping of sandwich and burger concepts, stay tuned for our full Better Sandwich Segment Report, coming soon!

Posted on December 5, 2012 and filed under Food Trends.