While not necessarily the healthiest of options, quality sausage rolls made with top ingredients still offer bakers a way to stand out from the crowd

The humble sausage roll has become a bit of a media star of late – though rarely for the best of reasons.

It made headlines in September when – along with the pork pie – it was banned from lunchboxes by a primary school in Bradford. More recently, Greggs was forced to apologise for promoting its advent calendar with a picture of the nativity in which the baby Jesus was replaced by a sausage roll.

While religious disputes – pastry-based or otherwise – are beyond the remit of most bakers, the industry has plenty of options when it comes to promoting the sausage roll in a positive light.

Improving the health credentials may not be one of them, however, according to David Stacey from Stacey’s Bakery, which celebrated National Sausage Roll Day in June this year with the creation of a 30ft sausage roll.

“Pastry contains plenty of fat, and so does pork. Take these away and you take away the taste and texture,” says Stacey. “It’s possible we could add items such as Brussels sprouts and some greens to a sausage roll, which would make it slightly healthier, but who would want one?”

Stacey stresses the importance of quality ingredients and simple recipes, adding that the use of different flavours can premiumise the sausage roll.

“Sausage meat with the inclusion of another flavour – in our case chorizo or apple – is a good way of increasing the perceived quality and moving sausage roll into more of a luxury,” Stacey says. “But still everyday products without making the standard sausage roll seem like an economy version.”

He adds that bolder flavours are proving popular. “We have been testing new standard sausage roll recipes and letting customers sample them,” says Stacey. “So far we’ve found people prefer more flavour whether it be more peppers or more herbs.”

Upper Crust operator SSP is also tapping interest in flavours, launching a chorizo and fennel seed sausage roll at its new Knead Bakery at London’s Euston station. Launched in partnership with Paul Hollywood, the business is selling its sausage rolls ‘by the inch’.

With consumers increasingly keen to understand where their food has come from, locally sourced ingredients can also be a useful point of difference.

The use of local ingredients is described as “amazingly important” by Charlie Hodson, who won the 2017 The Great Sausage Roll Off competition with his From Norfolk with Love sausage roll. A homage to locally sourced Norfolk-based ingredients, it was made with pork from a local pig farmer and puff pastry made with flour from Letheringsett, Norfolk.

“Since winning the Sausage Roll Off in January, I’ve noticed a difference in what people are looking for; they want better quality,” Hodson tells British Baker. “My sausage roll would never have won without local ingredients.”

Sausage rolls are one of the 11 categories in Scottish Bakers’ World Scotch Pie Championships, and head judge Ian Nelson offers tips on what he looks for in a perfect sausage roll. “The number one thing is consistency,” he says. “The aroma of a sausage roll is important, you need to get the spice balance right. It can’t be overly peppery, salty or herby. We also need to check the quality of meat and the balance from pastry to filling.”

Meanwhile, size offers another way of standing out from the crowd. Morrisons recently launched what it described as the UK’s biggest supermarket sausage roll. But, weighing in at a reported 1,650 calories, the 12-inch pastry won’t be doing much to appease health campaigners.

Tap into breakfast opportunity

Breakfast is an increasingly important market for many bakery businesses, and is helping to drive revenue growth in the likes of Greggs and Costa.

The range of breakfast bakery options continues to grow, with pizza and even chocolate cake tipped as potential breakfast products.

And, with no sign of demand for on-the-go breakfast slowing, savoury pastries are well placed to grow their role in the category.

Warrens Bakery has already introduced innovations such as a Sunday roast pasty, so could there be an opportunity for a breakfast pasty in the future for the Cornwall-based firm?

“We are working on a couple of breakfast pasty ideas, but are not ready to reveal all of our secrets just yet,” says Warrens master baker Jason Jobling.

The business has also introduced new products to selected stores including filled croissants, but adds that “you can’t beat” a bacon roll.

It’s a view echoed by David Stacey from Stacey’s Bakery, who says simple products are best suited to breakfast. “We don’t want to lose lunch and snack trade to breakfast. We want customers to have breakfast and come back for their lunchtime sausage roll.”