A bit of all white?

It’s a sandwich – but not as we know it. Whether it’s to help our health or to ring the changes, many of us are starting to look beyond slices of the traditional family loaf at lunchtime.

Chicken and iceburg parcels are a healthy alternative

Does the sandwich always have to be made from bread? A growing awareness of food intolerances and the quest for novelty mean new formats are making an appearance, from gluten-free to lettuce wraps, a stuffed croissant or the “wafflewich”, predicted to be the next American import to hit our shores.

TV chef Phil Vickery, who is the national charity Coeliac UK’s food ambassador, says that foregoing gluten when choosing your bread does not mean missing out on taste.

“I came across gluten-free by accident when developing a Christmas pudding and was unable to source flour,” he says. “I substituted rice flour in its place.”

Vickery has since written two books of gluten-free recipes which incorporate ideas for quick chicken iceberg parcels  and a chestnut and roasted onion bread.

The home-packed lunchbox has seen a plethora of other innovations, too. Baker Warburtons offers a range of Sandwich Pittas, Square(ish) Wraps and Sandwich Thins in brown, seeded and white varieties.

“The sandwich alternative sector is seeing significant growth,” says marketing controller Megan Harrison. “We are working to satisfy consumer trends and provide many choices.”

And change is seen on the high street, too. “The traditional, white triangular sandwich is dying,” says Paul May, CEO of the Patisserie Valerie chain.“Customers are looking for more variety – we are seeing a changing palate. They want handmade foods and artisan breads.”

However, the British Sandwich Association (BSA) figures challenge the supposed fickle shopper. About 58 per cent of commercially bought sandwiches are made with traditional square bread, while the fast-growing wrap only represents 5 per cent of the market.

Where the traditional sandwich may be under threat is from the growing preferences for gluten-free products, as hailed by Vickery.

Next week (14-20 May) will see Coeliac UK’s Gluten-Free Challenge to raise awareness. The BSA is supporting it with a contest to create the perfect gluten-free beef sandwich, which will be featured on its www.Lovesarnies.com website.