The food-to-go market is set to continue growing, offering a significant opportunity for on-trend, healthier and international fare revolving around wraps and flatbreads.

Sandwiches are under attack. No longer content with slices of white bread, Brits are seeking lighter, potentially healthier, and more interesting options at lunchtime.

Research by London’s Spitalfields Market shows sarnies are being ousted by wraps and flatbreads with 37% and 36% of the 1,133 respondents, respectively, saying they eat them on a regular basis. Sandwiches take just 15% of the vote.

Insight agency Him provides a more conservative view of the market, suggesting wraps account for 3.6% of all food-to-go visits at lunchtime, paling in comparison to sandwiches’ 19.8% share.

But with the food-to-go market set to grow by 3% in 2019 alone, and rack up a further £2bn by 2022, it is clear there’s potential for wraps and flatbreads to boost their sales.

“Wraps are popular with consumers and foodservice professionals for a number of reasons,” notes Gordon Lauder, managing director of frozen food distributor Central Foods, which produces a variety of wraps as part of its Katerbake foodservice range.

“One benefit is that wraps give a more pleasant eating experience with moister fillings, as they don’t go soggy. There’s also a higher ratio of filling to carrier, so they represent better value for money.”

Moving away from standard tortillas can also help add value and mix up the eating experience. “Switching the bread used for the carrier will completely alter the look, texture and taste of a lunchtime wrap,” says Dan Butt, managing director of national bakery supplier Butt Foods. “Opting for something like a sourdough flatbread as the carrier, for example, is a great way to upgrade a lunchtime wrap or make it suitable for a more substantial dish.”

This is common among the street food crowd, who look to offer consumers a more authentic experience by using the likes of freshly-made Indian roti, Lebanese khobz (also known as khobez) and Greek souvlaki.

However Tim Wittekind, head of NPD and innovation at Signature Flatbreads, notes that authenticity sometimes has to take a back seat to versatility. “Khobz, for example, might be a great fresh bread straight out of the oven, but if it needs to last eight days and be able to be folded and rolled at the end of this time, then it may need to look, taste and be made completely differently to achieve this – a more UK-friendly khobz,” he says.

When it comes to larger businesses, operators are looking for striking visuals. “New colours and formats have recently taken the wraps and flatbreads market by storm,” explains Kurt Van Vlasselaer, bakery NPD manager at Puratos UK. “Vegetables such as beetroot, spinach, mushrooms and peppers are being used to add colour and flavour, and sweet wraps using fruit such as strawberry have made an appearance.”

Seeded wraps also add a point of difference, suggests Stuart Berry, senior NPD manager at Spar wholesaler James Hall & Co. “Our vegan and vegetarian range uses a harissa wrap, spinach wrap and a chia seed wrap, alongside tomato bread and brown seeded rolls,” he says.

Meanwhile, freshness is vital. Central Foods and Funnybones Foodservice both advise foodservice operators to buy in frozen wraps.

“To offer super-fresh wraps, caterers could consider stocking frozen, which can be defrosted and prepared in line with demand,” says Lauder.

“Buying in ensures operators can rely on consistency in size, shape and flavour, and can always bring another pack out of the freezer if demand is higher than expected,” adds Tom Styman-Heighton, development chef at Funnybones Foodservice.

With interesting NPD, a focus on visuals and freshness, flatbreads may have the food-to-go market all wrapped up by 2022.

Gallery: Wraps & flatbreads NPD

Stonebaked Flatbreads

St Pierre Groupe

The Paul Hollywood brand entered fresh bakery with a four-strong range, including Stonebake Flatbreads. Made with extra virgin olive oil and durum wheat, they’re hand-stretched and baked in a hot volcanic stone oven.

Greek Style Flatbreads

Deli Kitchen

Deli Kitchen describes its Greek Style Flatbreads as soft and flexible, making them ideal for kebabs, gyros and falafel as well as for breakfast burritos and pizza bases. They have an rsp of £1-£1.35 for a pack of four.

Disney Kitchen Wraps

Mission Deli

Fruit and vegetable mini wraps for children were added to the Disney Kitchen licensed product line. Offered in four flavours – strawberry, plain, tomato ketchup and carrot – they feature Disney characters on the packs of six, which have an rsp of £1.29.

Beetroot & Chia Seed Wrap

James Hall & Co

This Beet It-branded beetroot & chia seed wrap is filled with chargrilled Mediterranean vegetables, with tomato and onion houmous, sweet chilli sauce and rocket. It is part of Spar’s meal deal in which shoppers get a main, drink and snack for £3.50.