Despite UK consumers eating more than 5bn sandwiches a year, they were increasingly demanding lower-fat and more convenient products to make them with, said Kantar Worldpanel director Chris Longbottom.
Sales of plant bread had declined in value this year by 4.5% to £1.6bn compared with last year, said Longbottom at the launch of Kingsmill’s new sandwich thins range in London last month. Sales of bread rolls declined by 0.5% in value to £256M over the same period, he added.
Meanwhile, sales of sandwich alternatives – such as wraps and thins – rose by almost 16% to £403M on the previous year. Sandwich thins, in particular, have proved to be a growing area of interest for UK consumers, with around 6.5M people purchasing them this year, compared with 2.5M last year, he said.
Warburtons and Kingsmill together have invested almost £30M in their bakery facilities and equipment to allow the manufacture of sandwich alternatives such as wraps and thins, in response to rising demand.
But not everyone is convinced that the days of slice bread are numbered. Although demand for sandwich alternatives is growing, plant bread still dominates food-to-go sandwich sales, according to Jim Winship, director of the British Sandwich Association.
“Sandwich bread dominates the [food-to-go] sandwich market by about 65% and sales of alternatives in this sector are much lower,” said Winship.
There is no data to suggest sandwich alternatives are increasing in popularity in the food-to-go sector, where even wraps accounted for only a small percentage (7%) of sales, he added.
“There have always been alternatives in this sector and it's difficult to spot the trends, but sandwich bread is still going strong.”