Sainsbury's starts a sandwich war

Updated on 12 April 2011 | 0 Comments

Sainsbury's has declared war on small independent shops in a bid to take a bite out of the latest lucrative market: sandwiches. But is a backlash in the midst?

The sandwich market is a multi-million-pound business, and it seems everyone is scrambling for a share of the golden crumbs.  It is estimated that consumers spend a staggering £3.5bn every year on pre-packed sandwiches, as our time-starved fast food culture increasingly caters to quick, on-the-go convenience food.

High-street domination

The days when small independent sandwich shops could rely on our loyalty are gone forever. Chains such as Subway and Pret a Manger now dominate our high streets (last year, Subway’s total sales accounted for 60% of all sandwiches sold), with new branches seemingly appearing every day on every other corner. 

Even supermarket chains are muscling in on the picnic.  Marks & Spencer, for example, have capitalised on their already massively popular, if controversial, sandwich range, with a new franchise of ready-to-go sandwich cafes selling everything from paninis to hot roast beef sandwiches. And now Sainsbury’s has opened takeaway sandwich store in Central London, called Fresh Kitchen, selling fresh sandwiches, soup and bacon rolls.


Experts are already predicting Sainsbury’s will rapidly expand the Fresh Kitchen model across the nation, and if it does so, it surely won’t be long until other supermarkets also try to get a slice of the market.

How will this affect independent sandwich shops that are already struggling to compete in today’s tough economic times?

The British Sandwich Association already estimate that the big name brands such as Boots and Sainsbury’s already control 17 per cent of the market.  Sainsbury’s foray into cheap, fast sandwiches, valuing speedy delivery and competitive prices, will undoubtedly have a hugely negative impact on already swamped, struggling small businesses. 

Support independent shops!

If you’d like to support an independent sandwich shop, but aren’t sure where to go for a quality sandwich, one good tip is to look for an award-winner.

For example, the British Sandwich Industry Awards helps promote growing independent sandwich bars in their annual awards, known as the Sammies. If you live in Oxford, check out Mortons, voted the 2010 ‘Independent Sandwich Bar of the Year’. From platters featuring roast beef with wasabi mayonnaise and brie with apricot and ginger chutney (starting at £19.00), to vegetarian and wrap options, you can also choose from a Subway-style range of different bread. 

Or, over in Avon, Hobbs House Bakery has also been garlanded with several industry awards, including the 2009 Taste of the West Awards for fig and walnut ciabatta and lavender marmalade.  Yum!

Meanwhile, Glasgow-based Cherry and Heather Fine Foods is a delicatessen offering some wildly original sandwich fillings – omega-seed sprinkled beetroot, lavender and honey goats cheese pate, anyone – that will challenge your allegiance to the reliable cheddar cheese Ploughman’s.  It also offers a relaxed cafe environment to enjoy such sandwiches as their Thai meatball and chorizo with smoked mayo.

Finally, since 2006, Romford’s Taste has been committed to serving high quality food a million miles away from the plastic, pre-packaged supermarket norm.  Along with the ‘classics’ – including smoked salmon and cream cheese and prawn Marie-Rose – the menu includes a mouth-watering Hoi Sin Duck wrap and the piece de resistance of paninis: the Italian Job.   

And for those of you lucky enough to live in the capital, there is more help from websites such as  The north London-based company delivers responsibly sourced products from local greengrocers, fishmongers and bakers to your door, with a quids-in delivery charge of £3.50. 

Employing local people and services, sourcing fresh, sustainable produce from the best quality producers, and maintain a low carbon emissions, environmentally conscious ethos, are heralding a return to customer-focused shopping, moving away from the faceless impersonality of the high street behemoths.


None of these in your area? Don’t despair. Using a new website and phone app,, you can utilise  the popularity of social media to find recommended sandwich shops in your area. offers users a location-based service that uses the GPS in your phone to connect you with the nearest local retailers and sandwich sellers, creating a like-minded community sharing tips and recommendations. 

The web app is accessible from any mobile device with an internet connection, and tech-savvy iphone users can ‘check in’ at local producers’ premises and spread the word to friends about the latest, tastiest sandwiches on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Alternatively, share your favourite local sandwich shop with other members using the comments box below!

Hard times ahead?

However, there have been suggestions that the sandwich’s lunchtime reign may be waning. There has been a growing disaffection with pre-packaged sandwiches after studies have shown that many chain-bought sandwiches contain massive amounts of salt and saturated fat.

But if the supermarkets want their bread buttered on both sides, there may be harder times in store.

Also worth your attention:

The tastiest regional foods in the UK

Tesco sells garlic in bizarre new shade

We should all steal from supermarkets


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