VEGA News Item

Sandwiches: The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread? - 26/05/2010

Britain’s Standby has Been Buttered Up and Egg Bound with Cheesy Ingredients and Pretensions

We do Better with our Truly Veggie Pizza

1.  Celebrating British Sandwich Week, which ended a few days ago, the organizers praised “a truly British creation.”  This was a timely tribute as supermarkets and manufacturers began to vaunt breads and other bakery goods made with truly 100% British wheat.  “The Earl of Sandwich gave us more than a handy lunch option, he gave rise to a highly creative, world-leading industry.  And that’s worth celebrating,” says the British Sandwich Association, which might include the Real Bread Campaign, launched in 1976, as another British first worthy of appreciation.

2.  When, in 1762, the 4th Earl of Sandwich called for his manservant to bring him some “cuts of beef” between 2 slices of bread (toasted)  “he could hardly have imagined that his words were to set in motion a trend that, 2 centuries later, has come to dominate our lifestyles,” claimes the BSA. The Earl had wanted something to eat but did not want the inconvenience of having to stop gambling.  It is the same today, with sandwiches providing a convenient, portable, and easy-to-eat meal that can be consumed on the move or at a desk with the least disruption to our busy lives.  (We might disagree a little here on the claims for the first fast food: surely pasties preceded the sandwich in the British cuisine; and there were some bad patches marked by the British Rail cucumber sandwiches with curled-up edges and white bread and drying-out cucumber).  Anyway, “eating on the move” is no practice to cultivate in a sensible society.

3.  Today over 11 billion sandwiches are consumed in Britain every year.  
Around three-quarters of these are made and eaten in the home or carried out of the home in lunch boxes to offices, schools, and factories.  The balance –some 3.3 billion – are made by commercial sandwich makers and sold either ready-to-eat in shops or served as meals in public sector establishments such  as schools and hospitals.  Indeed, since the launch of the first packaged sandwiches by Marks and Spencer in 1980, the UK has seen a whole industry  grow up around sandwiches and, latterly, wraps and in pockets of pitta breads.

4.  Today’s commercially-made sandwich industry employs well over 300,000 people and is a major contributor to the economy, with an annual turnover in excess of £6bn.  The BSA adds: “Furthermore, what started out as a simple meal alternative in the 1980s has become highly creative, with a huge range of choices available in the high street.  Even the simple plowman’s has become an exotic Italian mozzarella and baby tomato sandwich on ciabatta bread.  But it is not just in Britain that the sandwich has come of age.  Most of the rest of the world is fast wakening up to this ‘new’ way of taking lunch.  From the USA to Japan and even France, the sandwich is now an accepted part of lifestyles, and the UK industry is seen as a leader in this market.”

5.  Since it was set up in 1990, the BSA has not only created minimum standards for those making commercial sandwiches, but has also sought to ensure that the consumer’s interests are looked after by setting minimum filling levels for sandwiches made by the industry.  It monitors and audits its members against these standards, and only those meeting these are permitted to display the BSA logo.  The BSA has also been working with the Food Standards Agency to draw up national guideline standards for sandwich manufacturing and is working towards producing similar standards for the food service sector of the market in the near future.
6.  Although chicken dominates the commercial sandwich market – about a third of all the sandwiches we buy contain chicken in one form or another – in general the top sandwich fillings are fashion-driven and change from year-to-year.  The BSA observes: “Whilst chicken salad has held number one spot for some time, below it there is constant change.  In the last year prawn mayonnaise has moved from 7th spot to number 2, while plowman’s has dropped from 4th to 9th spot.”  Some old favorites are making a return to the top 20, egg mayonnaise, ham and mustard, and salmon and cucumber sandwiches have all returned this year, “suggesting perhaps that in recession we look back for reassurance to the more traditional fillings.  In the home, however, it’s ham and cheese that tend to dominate – which suggests that we are all, perhaps, a little less adventurous when it comes to making our own sandwiches – or maybe it’s because those tend to be the only ingredients we have in the fridge,” says the BSA.

7.  The traditional wedge-shaped sandwich tends to rule as our favourite when it comes to bread:  58% of all sandwiches are still made with standard sandwich bread, despite “all the noise about wraps and other exotic alternatives,” say the BSE.  “In fact, the much-vaunted wrap seems to have reached the pinnacle of its success, with pack sales showing little sign of growth over the last year.  They account or just 4% of the market, well behind rolls and baps, which account for over a quarter of commercial sandwich sales.”

8. We give below a list of Britain’s Favorite Sandwiches 2009/2010
  (source:  Kantar Worldpanel/BSA)

1.   Chicken Salad (1*)
2.   Prawn Mayonnaise (7)      
3.   Egg and Cress (9) 
4.   Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato (3) 
5.   Mixed Selection (5)
6.   Chicken and Bacon (2)
7.   Cheese and Onion  (11) 
8.   Tuna and Sweetcorn (10) 
9.   Plowmans (4)
10. Chicken and Sweetcorn
11. Salmon and Cucumber (-)
12. Ham and Mustard (-)
13. Breakfast (12)
14. Ham and Cheddar Cheese (20)
15. Southern Fried Chicken (16)
16. Chicken and Caesar (14)
17. Chicken and Stuffing (8)
18. Egg and Bacon (15)
19. Tuna and Cucumber (13)
20. Egg Mayonnaise (-)

(* Position previously)

9.  Properties and dietary applications of cereal foods have featured in policies favored by VEGA and its forebears – and, notably – its wide-ranging Campaign for Real Bread. They comprehend the importance of protein – and energy-content (i.e. calories) and dietary fibre and advances in measures such as glycemic index and the interactions of these factors with other components in meals, even of the simplest kind.  Sandwiches make nice examples of good resort to such applications, although the list of Britain’s Favorite Sandwiches reveals scant regard fore reduction and replacement of meat-and-dairy and replacement with plant-derived sources of protein.  Greater enterprise should be exhibited in applications of pulses in the fillings and spreads and, in the choices for the breads, versions of multigrain and seeded breads contributing a valuable nutritional input must be counted.

The Veggie Pizza

10.  Sandwiches may be eaten hot or cold, and a meal may be created by consumption with a nutritious soup or broth, which would extend choices of flavoring and introduce use of pulses and beans.  This is where pizzas come in – but not nicely.  Ads for home-deliveries of pizzas, bargain bogofs, and accompanying bottles of highly sweetened beverages are scandalous:  they encourage consumption of cheesy and brazen examples of offences to the principles of nutrition and thrifty applications of “rich” versions of simple and trustworthy foods, spoilt in the nefarious greed for cheap and “fast” food – at a high price.  Romania has found ways of taxing junk foods.  This is a course the UK should follow or it might be easier to offer vouchers for commodities described as staples with good pedigrees of provenance and good pedigree.

11.  Our Portfolio of Eating Plans heeds such factors and makes corrections in tasty ways.  So we are proud to introduce our Lebanese-style pizza with the usual and extending list of detailed facts as a product with no meat-and dairy, but still balancing nicely the protein-calorie ratios.  This is an example in which we hope, with collaboration from the Food Environment Research Association Agency and the Food Standards Agency to apply modern nutritional research and technology to introductions of worthy replacements to contemptible versions of the pizza.  This would accommodate the demands and discrimination of consumers aiming at a popular meal standing on its own without offence to the environment nor to the wellbeing of animals of all kinds, including humans.






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