The humble reputation of sandwiches and wraps belies their versatility, leaving some offerings seriously wanting. As a simple, practical and cost-effective snack option, these breaded beauties have a lot to offer school caterers and pupils. Not only are they capable of carrying a vast array of delicious fillings, hot and cold, but they are an ideal grab and go option from morning through to lunch.
This staple snack, which the British Sandwich Association says Brits eat 11.5bn of each year, remains as popular today with students as ever. However, today’s students crave more than the mundane offerings of yesteryear. They demand flavour and excitement with every bite, so that’s exactly what school caterers need to offer.
Gone are the days when a selection of uninspired fillings slapped between white or brown sliced bread would suffice. School children today are a sophisticated bunch and expect to see innovative flavour combinations inside a range of carriers, mirroring those available on the high street.
Global food continues to influence UK foodservice outlets and schools are no exception. The past year has seen new product development with a focus on Japanese, South American and South East Asian cuisines.
“One super on-trend flavour that is beginning to make waves in the great British sandwich scene is Japanese Katsu,” says Alison Smith, global product developer for Mars Food. “However, for many school caterers, the prospect of creating delicious Katsu-filled sandwiches which are both easy to make, authentic and school food compliant can be a daunting prospect. For these caterers, a ready-to-use Katsu curry sauce can prove ideal.”
School caterers can create a delicious, school compliant Katsu curry wrap in no time by making use of a pre-prepared sauce. Simply fill a tortilla wrap with crispy chicken strips, lettuce, bean sprouts, spring onions and warm Katsu curry sauce for a deliciously authentic wrap.
“Anticipating the next big trends, aside from basic mezze, Middle Eastern food remains relatively unexplored in the UK,” points out Lee Sharpe, head of sales and marketing for Theo’s. “This looks set to change with experts saying Lebanese is looking like a particularly hot area of growth. Lebanese Shawarma works brilliantly and is certainly not boring in a sandwich or wrap, combining Middle Eastern spices with fresh, zesty red cabbage salad.”
Another huge food trend that could not have gone unnoticed is veganism. The popularity of plant-based options has increased so rapidly that it is now the fastest growing culinary trend with a market value of £443m, according to BB Foodservice.
In fact, with Sainsbury’s Future of Food study stating that by 2025 vegans and vegetarians will make up a quarter of the British population and flexitarians just under half, it’s clear that demand for meat-free options will continue to grow.
“In the past 12 months we have more than doubled the size of our vegan range and the requests from customers to expand our offering further are becoming more and more frequent,” reveals Wayne Greensmith, head of category marketing at Urban Eat. “Offering products to suit different customers and different needs is essential to maintain strong sales.”
Despite the rise in popularity of vegan options, dairy still plays an integral role in many children’s diets as it provides a good source of energy and protein as well as delivering a wide range of minerals and vitamins, including calcium, essential for building healthy bones and teeth. Therefore, cheese remains a popular sandwich and wrap option in schools.
“Cheese remains one of the most popular fillings for sandwiches and wraps, especially among children and offers a great protein alternative to meat,” says Craig Brayshaw, commercial director of Eurilait. “Soft, spreadable cheeses are a familiar and well-loved option for kids’ sandwich menus.”
Aside from being a failsafe sandwich or wrap option, there are so many varieties to choose from and students will never experience menu fatigue. As a kitchen staple, cheese can be used for a range of dishes, making it an extremely versatile option to have to hand.
Although innovation is the key to ignite interest and enhance sales, it’s important that school caterers don’t neglect the classic favourites that pupils never get tired of eating, such as fish fingers.
“Sandwiches will always remain a reliable lunch option in schools,” says Joel Carr, development chef at Young’s Foodservice. “There are some fillings that never get old and fish fingers are definitely one of them. Kids of all ages love them and they’re also a great source of protein and omega 3 too.”
There are several ways that caterers can make use of these golden-crumbed fish sticks. From a classic fish finger butty with tartar sauce, ketchup or mayo to a Mexican wrap made with fish fingers and salsa, there are countless exciting options to choose from.
With the copious amounts of bread on the market there has never been more choice when it comes to carriers, which is great news for school caterers trying to keep things interesting. From flatbread and wraps to sourdough and spelt, there are numerous flavours and styles to suit every type of filling.
Today the carrier is just as important as the filling and can impact on the overall eating experience, so it’s an important factor. Swedish breads, for example are lighter in taste and softer in texture with no crust, which greatly appeals to younger students.
“School caterers could consider introducing new breads from around the world to make their sandwich selection stand out from the crowd,” says Jenny Jeppsson, concept manager at Polarbröd. “Swedish flatbreads and thin breads can be filled and rolled, topped and grilled, placed together with filling in the middle, or used as open sandwiches.”
Swedish breads are extremely versatile when it comes to fillings as their soft, moist texture is popular with children and young people and don’t crack when being filled or handled which can really help with speed of service and presentation.
“Wraps are proving particularly popular, at all parts of the day from breakfast through to later on, as a great alternative to traditional sandwiches,” says Jeppsson. “Opt for vegan breads to ensure that your sandwich offering is appealing to this growing group, and make sure you have fillings suitable for vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters.”
There has been an increase in demand for different types of sandwich carrier. Consumers expect innovation and want to experience something more interesting in a sandwich or wrap.
“Paninis and wraps in particular are big sellers and they can be toasted and served warm which is a great lunchtime option,” says Steve Lyons, sales director at Thomas Ridley Foodservice. “To keep sandwiches and wraps interesting, try giving them an unusual name. Rather than just a chicken sandwich, call it Packs a Protein Punch or a Fruity Favourite (Brie and Grape), Veggie Delight (all shredded veggies), Egg Extravaganza, Big Bad Beans (Baked Bean Toastie), Seeing Clearly with Carrots, Sweet Sensation (Banana and honey). This approach really fires the imagination and creates more interest.”
Highly nutritious food is integral for children’s health and cognitive development, which is why caterers are always on the lookout for ways to pack school lunches full of goodness.
“The key to a successful sandwich or wrap is to be generous with the filling and to contrast the textures,” says Tom Styman-Heighton, development chef at Funnybones Foodservice. “This is where salad and vegetables have a big part to play. Grilled and roasted vegetables like peppers, aubergines and squashes make a great addition to many sandwiches and wrap combos, adding soft and tasty texture and flavour. Whilst crisp lettuce, cucumber, radish and bean sprouts can give a soft filling a fresh crunch.”
The great news for school caterers is that sandwiches and wraps are not only immensely popular with pupils, but they can provide them with the perfect opportunity to really pack a nutritional punch.
“Burritos are an ideal way for caterers to pack more vegetables into their hot wrap offering,” points out Annette Coggins, head of foodservice at Tilda UK. “Beans – packed full of protein; rice – the perfect slow-release fuel, and crunchy, colourful vegetables mean caterers can easily create healthy and flavoursome Mexican-inspired dishes.”
Caterers can also tap into the trend for customisation, allowing pupils to cater to a wide range of dietary requirements. Simply offer a range of meat, veggie and dairy-free options to cover all bases.
“It’s definitely easier to pack in the vegetables to sandwiches and wraps,” says Carr. “When served between slices of bread and other tasty ingredients like fish fingers, children will be more likely to eat their veggies. As well as serving with salad, we also recommend whipping up some accompaniments such as a homemade salsa, slaws or even guacamole. Not only do pupils love being able to customise their own lunch but it can also encourage them to eat more vegetables, especially when it’s a cuisine that they really enjoy like Mexican.”
Sauces are a great way to pack sandwiches and wraps with hidden goodness. In fact, by using ready-made, school-compliant sauces, caterers can help students to reach their recommended five a day.
“To create a tempting meatball and veggie marinara sub, caterers simply need to layer cooked meatballs, tomato and basil sauce, lettuce and red onion on to a four inch sub before sprinkling with a layer of mozzarella cheese and grilling,” says Smith. “A tasty sandwich bursting with Italian flavour and veggies galore!”
Given their versatility and simple construction it’s little wonder that sandwiches and wraps remain a stalwart of lunch menus. Allowing school caterers to adapt and innovate to keep their offering on trend, sandwiches and wraps are the ultimate fast food.