Independent sandwich bars and bakery shops will struggle to meet Food Standards Agency (FSA) plans for calorie labelling in foodservice, which are being considered in a newly launched consultation.

According to the British Sandwich Association (BSA), small sandwich retailers do not have the technical capabilities to calculate the calorie content of their products and could be left isolated by the FSA’s plan to encourage the voluntary display of calorie information in outlets.

"The larger sandwich and bakery chains have the technical knowledge and resources to work out the calorie content of their products, but independents have very little chance of doing this," said BSA director Jim Winship. "If consumers take notice of calorie labels, it could leave independents at a disadvantage and vulnerable to being targetted by consumer groups."

The FSA launched a consultation this week to develop recommendations for displaying calorie information in foodservice outlets. This is based on trials over the past year held in around 450 stores run by 21 different operators, including Subway and Pret A Manger, which saw calorie contents displayed on menus, posters and labels.

Pret A Manger trialled shelf-edge labelling highlighting the calorie and saturated fat content of its sandwiches, wraps, baguettes, soups and salads in 20 stores, and last month permanently extended the scheme to all its 198 stores.

"A lot of customers didn’t notice the information or, if they did, said it wouldn’t affect what they were going to buy," said Pret technical manager Anita Kinsey. "Other feedback was very positive. People said it was easier to choose what they wanted and it helped them monitor their eating through the day."

Greggs also plans to roll out calorie details for savouries, sandwiches and drinks across its stores from January with information displayed on packaging and counter displays.

Jim Winship added that smaller sandwich shops and bakery chains that do attempt to introduce calorie labelling risk falling foul of Trading Standards Officers, if they get their calculations wrong.

"Instead of just concentrating on the chains, the FSA needs to give wider consideration to independent sandwich bars and bakers, which make up around 45% of the sandwich market," he said.