You have to be careful when you’re selling sandwiches. The reason? Everyone can make a sandwich so we all know what’s good and what’s not. Quality, freshness, choice and availability are the watchwords according to Andy Valentine, head of brand marketing for Ginsters. And he should know, as Ginsters remains the number one branded sandwich supplier in the UK.

"One of the biggest barriers to purchase is an uninspiring product choice so what you need is old favourites mixed with new lines," he says.

And thanks to a recent range refresh, Ginsters has plenty of new lines to offer.

These include premium batch sandwiches a style that’s popular in high street coffee shops. Ginsters’ initial range of these premium lines include roast beef & horseradish, salmon & cucumber and West Country Cheddar ploughmans.

There are two new flatbreads for consumers who are after a lighter on-the-go snack. These come in chicken & mango and sweet potato falafel & mango varieties and both contain less than 350 calories.

This calorie count seems important to Ginsters as 45% of its total sandwich range now contains fewer than 350 calories. Obviously this is quite a departure for a brand known for its "filling" products but Valentine says the company is responding to the long-term trend of health awareness and challenging consumers’ perceptions of the brand.

Also available from Ginsters is a new selection of salads, which the company hopes will attract new customers to the brand. Varieties include a layered West Country Cheddar, coronation chicken rice, Moroccan chicken cous cous and tuna nicoise salads.

"Retailers tend to flex their ranges seasonally, so in the summer they’ll take and sell more salads," explains Valentine.

Energy source

Stephen Clifford, marketing controller at Country Choice, says bread, wraps and bagels are ideal carriers for a healthy snack as they are predominantly carbohydrate and therefore a good source of energy. "The use of low-fat mayonnaises, yogurts, low-fat cream cheeses as well as lean meat such as chicken and other protein sources such as egg, also contribute to making wraps and sandwiches a healthy snack. Wholemeal and seeded breads provide more fibre compared to white bread and also naturally have more micro-nutrients such as B vitamins and iron."

Valentine says that many consumers start the week with health uppermost in their minds but go for more indulgent products as the week progresses. "Our top five sellers are still the same (deep fills including BLT and egg & bacon) but we are offering a lot more salads and things like flatbreads because people do like the option of something different. We still offer the same taste and satisfaction but with different carriers, different formats, different flavour profiles and fill levels so we’ve got a really balanced range.

"We make sure that our total range caters for different retailers dependent on their location and customer profile. Those retailers with bigger stores and bigger footfall will take the full range; others will tailor their range accordingly. We work with retailers with site-specific plans and site-specific category advice."

Flexible approach

The Ginsters approach is extremely flexible. For instance it works a free-flow replenishment system based on rate of sale so it can be as "flexible and responsive" as possible. This comes from having its own dedicated fleet of sales vans and reps armed with hand-held terminals which enable them to key in stock sold and then suggest ordering. However, Valentine stresses that there is complete flexibility. He says retailers can order a single item if they wish and there’s no need to pre-order. This means if an outlet has a run on a certain item or sells a lot because of the weather, it can rely on Ginsters for replenishment.

"We offer daily deliveries seven days a week. All our sandwiches are sold with a three-day shelf life and we can offer sale or return terms if that’s what the retailer wants. We understand that one size does not fit all, which is why we are so flexible."

The Cumbrian-based Hills Group recently switched to Ginsters as its main sandwich supplier. Managing director Graham Hill is extremely pleased with the decision: "From the first day I met Colin (regional account controller, Colin Pothecary), he filled me with confidence that Ginsters would work for our forecourts and after the first meeting it didn’t take long for me to take the decision to put Ginsters into all of our sites. After we made the decision, the Ginsters team got to work on the range for the space they had to play with in each site. During this time, Ginsters were in touch with me by phone and email every step of the way which, in itself, was very reassuring.

"The way the product was merchandised on the day of the first delivery was excellent; our food-to-go looks 100% better than it ever did, with Ginsters now doing the merchandising. I can truly see us having a long working relationship."

Fresh thinking

Clifford says a growing proportion of consumers want freshly-prepared sandwiches especially baguettes and crusty rolls where the crustiness conveys to them "freshly baked".

Clifford adds that there is also a small but growing demand for ’made-to-order.’ "This gives consumers the opportunity to have a sandwich exactly how they want it and, of course, it provides the operator with the chance to demonstrate heightened customer service as well as giving them a point of difference.

"The freshness aspect is a key element but so too is the practice of giving familiar products a more modern ’take’, either by introducing a more adventurous flavour combination or by changing the bread carrier."

Earlier this year Country Choice launched a range of new ’heat stable’ sandwich fillings for those retailers who want to give their customers the option of having their sandwich hot. Explains Clifford: "This meant redeveloping all our mayonnaise-based fillings so that they are safe to warm in a panini grill or microwave. This has also enabled us to expand our sandwich fillings range to include products like the new all-day breakfast made with free-range chopped eggs and Cumberland sausage slices mixed with smoke flavoured bacon pieces and sliced mushrooms all coated in a tomato mayonnaise dressing."

Of course, the king of made-to-order sandwiches is Subway, which has 39,000 stores in over 102 countries, including over 1,650 locations in the UK and Ireland.

Trevor Haynes, area development manager for Subway in the UK and Ireland, says the popularity of the Subway brand stems from its ’Sandwich Artists’ who use a variety of breads freshly baked in-store daily, and an array of meats, cheeses, salads, vegetables and sauces to create tasty made-to-order subs, flatbreads and salads.

Haynes adds that due to the simplicity of the operation, Subway stores can maintain a full range of products maximising sales throughout the day, while managing wastage at less than 1%.

Value for money

Offering value for money is key, says Valentine, whether that’s a meal deal or just straight-forward sensible pricing, but he warns retailers about getting into what he calls the "meal deal straitjacket". "Value for money means whatever is appropriate for that particular store. That could mean a meal deal but it has to be as inclusive and as flexible as possible. The three-piece sandwich/drink/crisps deal is still the most popular but you could add an extra £1 option to encourage customers to trade up.

"And you have to be careful with NPD as it can be perceived as offering lower value for money if it’s not part of the meal deal."

Clifford says many of Country Choice’s customers have enjoyed considerable success with ’round pound’ deals, which help to simplify and speed up the transaction process.

"Round pound deals have also proved successful in meal deals.

"For example, a retailer might offer a lunchtime meal deal incorporating a baguette (rrp £2.89) and coffee (rrp £1.50) at a ’round pound’ price of £4.

"While it goes without saying that consumers are always looking for value for money price is not the be all and end all. Research shows that freshness, quality, choice and good service are far more important to them get these elements right and price becomes less of an issue."

Valentine agrees: "Selling sandwiches is all about good availability, having the right range (core favourites with an element of new lines) and having the food-to-go fixture visible as soon as people enter the store. It needs to be clean and well lit to convey quality and freshness."

Snack News

Kettle Foods has launched a new range of price-marked packs which it says are ideal for those outlets in more price sensitive areas, or where the rate of sale of premium products is lower. The Kettle Chips 40g bags are price-marked at 59p and are available in the four most popular seasonings: lightly salted; sweet chilli & sour cream; sea salt & balsamic vinegar; and mature Cheddar & red onion.
The Smiths range has been extended with the launch of two new value snacks: Wafflers and Twisted. Exclusively available to the impulse channel in single packs, Twisted flamin’ hot flavoured corn puffs and Wafflers bacon flavoured corn puffs, join the established Smiths range in 39p price-marked bags.
Tyrrells has launched Aristo-Crackling hand-cooked pork crackling in two flavours: traditional and English mustard. There are two bag sizes: 50g, rrp £1.19; and 30g, rrp 99p.
Jalapeno & red pepper and spicy chorizo are the latest flavours to join the Burts potato chips range.

Heat and eat

The Kepak-branded microwave is an inexpensive addition to a store and can boost sales of hot snacking products without concerns over waste, and the additional labour costs associated with food-to-go counters. So says Angela Daulby, channel director for Kepak, who adds that some retailers have seen sales increases of 280% after installing a Kepak-branded microwave, in their store.
The company has recently launched an all-in-one microwave and stand. The Heat and Eat stand is pre-programmed to cook Rustlers and Zugo’s Deli Café SKUs, but can be used to cook any hot food-to-go products. It comes with a built-in bin to keep the surrounding area tidy.
The Heat and Eat stand with microwave is available at £500, plus VAT, with the stand only available at £360 plus VAT. The microwave only is £140 plus VAT. Orders can be placed with RH Hall on 01296 663400.
Daulby advises that retailers keep the best-selling brands in stock 100% of the time. "For hot snacking, Kepak’s must-stock lines (Rustlers Quarter Pounder, Rustlers Chicken Sandwich and Rustlers BBQ Rib) will drive sales," she says.