This year most UK retailers and food service chains launched their Christmas sarnie ranges in the end of October. Marks & Spencer is offering a variety of twelve sandwiches, including a new vegan option called Nutcracker Sandwich, with a filling of sweet potato, chestnut and cranberry roast, butternut squash, cranberry chutney, pistachios and caramelised pecans. Meat consumers are being enticed by a new Yule Hog roll, as well as a Steak & Peppercorn Sauce sandwich. Brie & Grape filling is used in both a classic vegetarian sandwich and in a gluten-free version.
Food service chains have also introduced a variety of vegetarian Christmas sandwiches. Pret’s Brie, Pistachio & Cranberry and Starbucks’ Very Merry Vegan Wrap with Butternut look particularly interesting. Of course meat lovers still have a lot to choose from – indulgent options, such as Philpotts’ Pigs in Blankets roll, are abundant.
We ran two multi-answer steers in an attempt to rank our mix of commonly-used sandwich fillings, as well as some more novel ones. The combined results are presented below:
The obvious conclusion is that traditional options score highly with consumers when it comes to Christmas sandwiches. An indulgent combination of turkey with pigs in blankets performed best in our test – no wonder the majority of vendors have included it in their Christmas offering in one form or another.
Simplicity also seems to be a theme in this ranking. Over 37% of consumers want a no fuss Turkey Trimmings sandwich. In this context, we noticed that healthier positioning isn’t a winner. The posh-sounding Free-range Turkey & Baby Spinach, as seen in Pret’s menu this year, gained just 22.7% acceptance.
The Yorkshire pudding sandwich performed well, having established itself as a winning combination of traditional cuisine and novel format. Following a last year’s debut, Morrisons decided to bring back its £3 Yorkshire pudding wrapped Christmas sandwich this season.
As for vegetarian options, they mostly underperformed, despite some innovative combinations, such as the bottom two in our ranking. However, Brie & Cranberry, in particular, performed well (33%) with its variation Brie & Grape also showing potential (23%). From these two, only the former managed to enter our top five, qualifying for the preference steer which we ran next:
The results above confirmed the ranking we initially got. The screenshot presents exclusive preferences, where consumers picked the same option every time it was shown, but considering all preferences, which include second and third choices, gives a very similar result.
In this steer Brie & Cranberry topped 15%. Despite not being expressly described as vegetarian, it attracted a larger ratio of vegetarians, vegans and meat reducers (with a combined result of 22%). This classic should certainly be included in Christmas sandwich ranges to respond to specific diet needs, but could it be made more exciting?
We have established above that Brie & Grape is likely to perform relatively well on the market. Perhaps adding grape to the Brie & Cranberry filler could arouse interest? We ran a split-by-description test to vegetarians, vegans and meat reducers only, to see whether these consumers would rather opt for the simpler version or the one with a twist:
The results show that simplicity is a benefit in these choices. With nearly five percentage points more votes, Brie & Cranberry remained our narrow vegetarian winner.
For retailers and food service operators the biggest weapon in the Christmas battle is new product development. In order to get customers to spend, they need to prove differentiation through their own label. However, product developers should aim to strike a balance between the factor of surprise and the intrinsically traditional character of Christmas food. This is when Vypr should be brought into play to test assumptions and screen concepts.