== Jim Winship ==

director, British Sandwich Association

While the uncertainties of the past few weeks may be causing doom and gloom in the city, the bakers and sandwich industry should be able to derive some positives, not least with the city slickers having to forego corporate lunches in favour of more humble offerings in local sandwich outlets.

Indeed, one of the strengths of the sandwich is its adaptability - even if people have less to spend than they did a year ago, there is still a sandwich that fits the bill.

In fact, sandwiches are now so much a part of our daily lives that I believe we are unlikely to see any dramatic changes in sales.

And while some may drop out of the commercial sandwich market in order to make their own at home (which will benefit bread sales), evidence suggests that the imbalance will be corrected by others giving up their lavish lunches.

However, this doesn’t mean that life will necessarily be easy for sandwich businesses, many of which have had to cope with the pressures of rising ingredients and fuel costs.

Plus, there are real dangers that in trying to contain these, we end up damaging the market by cutting innovation and cutting corners on quality.

At a time when product quality is already under some pressure from the healthy eating lobby, particularly in terms of reducing salt levels, the industry needs to be focusing on product development that makes events such as the BSA’s Taste Experience (Olympia Conference Centre, London on 30 October) ever more important.

Indeed, the focus of this year’s forum will be on some of the key economic and trading issues now facing the industry.

The new salt targets being proposed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for sandwiches are causing concern - there are already signs of consumer resistance, with complaints about the blandness of some sandwiches. There are also food safety issues involved in salt reduction that don’t seem to have been properly addressed. The BSA is currently working with other trade bodies to encourage the FSA to reconsider its proposals.

While the likes of sandwich bars have so far escaped the key pressures of these targets, the FSA is beginning to focus attention on them as well, scrutinising how much more nutritional information can be given to consumers at point of sale.

The BSA is soon to meet with leading sandwich bar chains to coordinate the best response to these pressures and the cost implications for the industry.

Most importantly, regardless of these pressures, it’s vital that the industry maintains a balance that will safeguard the integrity of the sandwich market into the future.