Innovation at the cheaper end of the sandwich market is being stifled by a lack of originality in meeting the needs of hard-pressed consumers who seek out value alternatives, according to a top food consultant.

Speaking at a panel discussion at the Lunch! show, held at London’s Old Billingsgate on 29 September, Nellie Nichols, formerly of Pret A Manger, said sandwich makers were too often guilty of "copycating" the larger manufacturers and retailers rather than coming up with original, price-conscious products.She said: "It’s a massive opportunity if people want to use their imaginations, to come up with innovative products that don’t cost the earth to produce. Yes, crayfish sandwiches will sell, but people now want a cheaper option and it’s not difficult to achieve with more cost-effective ingredients."

Rob Topping, bakery buyer for Compass, added that there was no longer an assumption among retailers that people would continue buying premium products. "We think consumers will seek that choice of value more frequently," he said. "The sandwich category is really well placed: it can broadly be perceived as healthy and it should represent value. There are some fantastic products out there."

Meanwhile, Michelle Young of BB’s Coffee & Muffins said the key to riding the economic downturn would be strong price positioning and meal deals and discounting on a local store level.


=== In Short ===

== Pepsi’s Raw state ==

Pepsi is launching its "all-natural" premium variant Pepsi Raw into the café and coffee shop sector. The carbonated drink, which is lighter than standard Pepsi and has natural ingredients, was launched into bars and clubs earlier this year. It will be available to cafés and foodservice operators in a 250ml can from March.

== Slice of the action ==

The Handmade Cake Company is to sell its six best-selling traybakes as individually-wrapped slices for the catering industry. The slices are delivered frozen in a display outer of 18 packs. The six varieties available are caramel shortcake, all-butter flapjack, chocolate fruit and nut slice, maple and pecan slice, Boston brownie and cranberry and sultana flapjack.

== Panitaly takes on UK ==

Italian manufacturer Panitaly is targeting the UK with its range of part-baked frozen bread. The firm aims to supply the foodservice sector with ready-to-serve pre-sliced bread for sandwiches, as well as selling its bake-off range to retailers. It uses a traditional natural starter technique, Biga, to make its bread, eliminating the need for flour improver and preservative.

== Sussex bars ==

Sussex-based chocolatier Montezuma’s is targeting the café sector with a range of five 30g bars. The mini bars come in dark chocolate chilli, milk chocolate butterscotch, Peruvian chocolate with a hint of sea salt, smooth milk chocolate and 73% cocoa dark chocolate versions.

== Green cleaners ==

London Bio Packaging has launched a range of eco-friendly cleaners for catering firms. The seven products in the range are washing-up liquid, multi-surface cleaner, multi-purpose spray, disinfectant, toilet cleaner and a glass and mirror spray.