Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Maeve Webster
July 11, 2019

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It may seem a bold statement, but virtually every culture in the world has a sandwich-type item; an item that’s comfortable, filling and easy to eat. The name may change – döner kebab, cemita, banh mi, arepa, katsu-sando, smörgåstårta—but the format is familiar even if the fillings aren’t. Operators are reinventing the classics with new flavors and elevated ingredients while others are introducing new styles from around the globe with mash-up ingredients or traditional variations.

It’s hard to imagine an operation where some type of sandwich wouldn’t be appropriate, so consider these emerging options, based on Datassential’s MenuTrends, to elevate your sandwich game:

1 Types

Sandwiches are one of the few items that work all day, from breakfast to late night. The world of sandwiches continues to expand as our understanding of and exposure to world cuisines expands—newer sandwiches making their way onto menus include jibaritos, tortas and tartines, but for now, the fastest growing sandwich types include: fried chicken sandwiches, banh mi, breakfast sandwiches/wraps, croque monsieur, croque madame, Cuban sandwiches and falafels.

2 Carriers

Thanks to a growing array of options from manufacturers and bakeries, as well as chef innovations in-house, the types of breads available and appropriate for sandwiches is without boundaries. When considering how to boost the interest in sandwiches, take a look at some of the growing carriers in the sandwich category including seed- and grain-based breads, bao buns, naan, pullman, vegetable flavor/inclusive bread, and ficelle (French bread loaf).

3 Sauces and condiments

Consumers love them for their appearance and flavor while operators adore the versatility. Sandwich sauces and condiments are taking inspiration from fresh and seasonal produce, trending and historical preparation techniques, and global cuisines. The sauces/condiments created or purchased for sandwiches can act as serious back-of-house workhorses. Some of the fastest growing in the sandwich category include Sriracha and Sriracha-based, harissa, mojo, balsamic glaze, flavored aïolis/mayonnaises, and spirit-based or -flavored sauces.

4 Healthy Options

Sandwiches can easily be indulgent, either in inclusions or in portion size. With the continued focus on better for you and healthy behavioral shifts among patrons, sandwiches are being designed with these in mind. In building, sandwiches can be healthy from the ground up or they incorporate wholesome elements to increase the perceived halo of better for you. When creating sandwiches within the health and wellness space, consider these trending descriptors and options such as plant-based proteins, gluten-free, vegan, organic, locally sourced ingredients and whole or multi-grain.

5 Sides

When innovating in the sandwich category, don’t forget the accompaniments. Though “on the side,” these items can enhance the sandwich occasion and increase overall satisfaction. Whether health-focused or indulgent, sides allow for experimentation, can showcase an operator’s skills, and create a well-rounded culinary experience. On-trend sandwich sides include quinoa-based salads, kimchi, mac and cheese, chips (potato or vegetable), and bean-based side options.

About The Author

Maeve Webster

MAEVE WEBSTER is a leading consultant and thought leader for foodservice manufacturers, operators and other professionals. She has spearheaded hundreds of major industry studies during her 20-plus years as a foodservice specialist. Today, Maeve focuses her consultancy on helping manufacturers, operators, commodity boards and marketing firms understand, prioritize and leverage food and consumer trends. Key areas of focus include consumer behavior, trend analysis, product design/testing and menu optimization. Maeve specializes in helping her clients not just to understand data but to also pull out the most critical threads and stories within the data that can inform both tactical and strategic decision-making. In addition to running her Menu Matters consultancy, Maeve owned and operated a café in Bennington, Vt., for four years. It was awarded “best coffeehouse” in Bennington each of the years it was in operation. She has an MBA from the University of Illinois Chicago and a culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago. She is a regular speaker at industry events and a contributor to major media outlets and industry publications, including Flavor & The Menu.