Look at the change in our eating habits over the past 15 years. It’s all due to outside influences," says Nellie Nichols, sandwich consultant.
The European Sandwich and Snacks show, which took place recently in Paris, was a showcase for many of those changes, revealed in everything from ingredients to packaging.
While you don’t have to be a genius to see how sandwich fillings have changed, a company called Genius has certainly pioneered new combinations that have found favour with popular UK sandwich supplier Pret A Manger, for example.
Based in Parma, Italy, Genius supplies mouthwatering, soft, chewy, colourful vegetables that add brightness, texture and ’health’ to a sandwich. Courgettes, aubergines, sun-dried tomatoes - the list, like the display, was long. The vegetables are authentic, Italian and fresh. Most are then dried or grilled and supplied pasteurised, sterilised or chilled. They looked appetising in their dishes - even without a sandwich bread in sight.
Colpac of Flitwick, Milton Keynes, was responding to questions in a number of languages. Its stand showed just about every type of packaging for any shape carrier imaginable. "Do you have microwaveable packaging?" I asked. "Yes," said Frank Mills, sales and marketing director. "And biodegradable?" "Yes, just here." "What about packaging for filled tortillas?" "No problem" was the reply.
Colpac can design and provide almost any sandwich packaging and if you happen to have a strong independent streak, they can sell you the machinery and you can make your own. So how was the show going for them? "It’s going incredibly well," said Mills. "Not everyone places orders at the show but many get in touch afterwards when they have had time to discuss what they have seen."
In the UK, we have seen mini muffins and diddy doughnuts, but bite-size has always been bigger on the Continent, where there is the habit of stopping for an espresso and a little something that just pops into the mouth. Vandemoortele of Hounslow’s pre-baked pastries are too small to pile on the calories, but these little indulgences are almost impossible to refuse. A mere mouthful, a little encouragement from the sales assistant and, before you know it, it’s on the plate or in the mini bag.
Roberts Bakery of Northwich, Cheshire, was at the show to uphold the famous British phenomenon of sliced and wrapped, which gave its name to Le Sandwich. The firm has been exporting sandwich bread as far as Japan. John Jump, national accounts manager for Roberts, noted that the timing of the show clashed with the Convenience Retailing Show back in the UK, but Roberts’ bread is almost synonymous with Le Sandwich in many parts of France and beyond, having, as one Frenchman told me, "just the right crumb and just the right crust".
Leerdammer’s cheese symbol is the laughing cow and Bel Foodservice of Paris must have laughed all the way to the bank if the crowd around its stand were all customers. Many were tempted by the small sizes - so convenient for making rolls and sandwiches or for customers to pop into a lunch box. There were mini-bels and baby bels; cheese for ease in strips, rounds and squares; or cheese as you please for big sandwich runs. n