October 25, 2021

The death of the sandwich?

Whether they’re being included in afternoon tea, packed into a lunchbox or popped in a picnic basket, the humble sandwich has been a statement of British cuisine for centuries – but it is now on the decline according to new research that reveals Brits are now avoiding stodgy, boring sandwiches and are instead reaching for wraps, salads and sushi to get them through the afternoon.

The survey of 1,133 British adults carried out by Spitalfields Market has revealed how growing demand for artisanal lunches is causing the sandwich market to die out. 

Whilst bread-based options including wraps, flatbreads and burgers all made the list of top five items Brits regularly choose for their lunches, the simple sandwich appeared just ninth on the list, with only 15% of respondents saying they regularly eat them for lunch. Instead, 42% of respondents said they regularly eat salads for lunch, while 37% go for wraps. A further 36% often have flatbreads for lunch and 31% choose sushi.

When quizzed on the sandwich fillings that interest Brits the most, respondents showed a clear bias toward fancy fillings such as avocado and pulled pork and much lower demand for the traditional British favourites that used to dominate lunchboxes.

Avocado came out as the most popular sandwich filler, with 1 in 3 (33%) listing it as a favourite filling, followed closely by pulled pork at 32%, and smoked salmon at 28%.

This is compared to just 11% opting for a classic ham & cheese, 9% selecting egg mayo, and just 5% preferring the old-school favourite, peanut butter.

Matt from Spitalfields Market, says: “Sandwiches have been a staple in British diets for centuries, but the 21stcentury has seen people opting for arguably healthier options and wider varieties of lunchtime meals.

“In today’s overtly health and body conscious society adults are becoming stricter with their eating habits. They want choices that will shake up their daily routine, give them diet-friendly choices and importantly, something to look forward to come lunchtime.

“Street food is another trend that we feel is contributing to this shift in eating habits. Spitalfields Market has been tracking increased footfall to its food stalls between 12-3pm over the last year, as local residents and professionals are becoming more adventurous in their food choices.

“We’ve also noticed a significant increase in ‘clean eating’ with much higher demand for options including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free. Lollipop at Spitalfields is London’s first fruit-based café, meeting the clean eating demand across all three of these dietary requirements.”

The research also highlights a differentiation in food choices across the various age groups, with Millennials and Gen Zs far less likely to opt for traditional sandwiches, instead choosing artisanal lunches compared to middle-aged respondents. Of those younger respondents surveyed, just 5% claim to make homemade sandwiches for their lunch every day.

The Nation’s Top 10 Lunch Foods:

  1. Salads (42%)
  2. Wraps (37%)
  3. Flatbreads (36%)
  4. Sushi (31%)
  5. Burgers (25%)
  6. Soups (24%)
  7. Pastas (24%)
  8. Pizzas (23%)
  9. Sandwiches (15%)
  10. Leftovers (11%)