Sandwich consumption remains high. On average, consumers eat more than three sandwiches per week. However, 54 percent of consumers (up from 51 percent two years ago), indicate they are preparing sandwiches themselves. This means operators and suppliers will need to focus on hard-to-duplicate menu items to entice consumers to purchase more sandwiches away from home.

Zeroing in on the quality of their sandwich ingredients is also essential. Compared to two years ago, today's consumers place higher importance on quality and quantity, as well as the appetizing appearance of sandwich ingredients. Up-and-comers in the fast-casual segment like Jimmy Johns, Firehouse Subs and Jersey Mike's have capitalized on these demands and are successfully competing for share of stomach with the dominant larger players like Subway.

To help owners and operators understand the latest behaviors, preferences and attitudes of consumers regarding sandwiches, Technomic has published an update of its Sandwich Consumer Trend Report. Interesting findings include the following key trends:

• Sandwiches fill the need for fast, convenient and portable meal options: three out of every five sandwiches (61 percent) that consumers order are taken to go, and 49 percent of consumers sometimes purchase grab-and-go sandwiches.
• Most consumers place high importance on health for sandwiches at lunch (51 percent) and dinner (53 percent).
• Further, just 43 percent are satisfied with the healthfulness of sandwiches away from home, while 50 percent would like to see more healthy sides to pair with sandwiches.
• Diners would also like more restaurants to offer mini sandwiches (35 percent agree, up from just 26 percent in 2010).

"Quality sandwich ingredients are a must," said Darren Tristano, Executive Vice President of Technomic, Inc. "In order for sandwich operators to drive traffic and steal share, they have to strengthen the quality perception by promoting freshness and customization opportunities, while giving guests a more interesting range of toppings, breads and proteins that emphasize variety."