UK Sandwich Trends: Five innovation thought-starters for 2023/24 product development

Egg Soldiers highlights five artisan sandwich showstoppers from across UK hospitality, discussing consumer drivers, new development opportunities and trend trajectories for 2023/24
Close-up of a chicken sandwich
In May, the latest edition of the annual Sandwich & Food to Go Awards (or ‘The Sammies’) hit London, with the glittering ceremony a showcase of 2023 sandwich innovation from across multiple industries as retailers, manufacturers and suppliers from all over the UK descended on the capital.

Among the awards divvied out was the coveted title of 'Sandwich & Food to Go Designer of the Year', which was won by Southampton-based Katarina Broadribb, co-owner of Uptons of Bassett butchers and Lemon and Soul cookery school, for her Smokey Roll - a combination of locally-sourced smoked beef brisket, smoked Gouda cheese, mushrooms and horseradish mayo housed in a homemade spelt roll.

What with it also being British Sandwich Week in May, we got to thinking about emerging UK sandwich trends for 2023/24, particularly in foodservice, and the innovative flavours, fillings and formats being used to great effect as food-to-go's post-Covid recovery continues.

And so, in no particular order; here are five showstopping UK sandwiches that have caught our eye in terms of future development opportunities, with globally-inspired flavour riffs, groundbreaking ingredient combinations, and next-level bread all featured.

Image: @chets_ldn
Found in The Hoxton hotel in Shepherds Bush, Chet's is described as "a Thai-Americana spot combining the fragrant flavours and smoky textures of Thailand and the surrounding region with comforts from the classic American diner".

Chet's menu, which was devised by famed LA chef Kris Yenbamroong, features three sandwiches. And while we love the Bodega (comprising sai uah sausage, cheese and 'fluffy' egg in a kaiser roll), and the Chet's Club Sandwich (a triple-decker option with fried chicken, bacon, papaya slaw, ranch, jalapeño,⁠ red cabbage and tomato); it's really all about their mushroom & cheese option, primarily for the use of a buttery, wheat flour roti as the vehicle for its fillings.

Comprising portobello mushroom, Thai basil, lemongrass, lime, chilli, coriander, provolone cheese and scrambled egg; this is meat-free decadence for breakfast/lunch on-the-go occasions, with the Thai-style roti a superbly soft and moist carrier.

Roti's stature is seriously on the rise among foodies all around the world. Indeed, roti canai, the versatile Malaysian iteration made with eggs, ghee and flour, served with dhal or various types of curry, was named the best street food in the world for 2022 by TasteAtlas, with London's Roti King a long-standing player in pushing the joys of roti in the UK capital, opening a new outpost at the newly-regenerated Battersea Power Station only last year.

Roti has also played a key role in the proliferation of Sri Lankan and South Indian cuisine in London these past five years, featuring prominently on the menus of Hoppers, Paradise, and the new Rambutan restaurant on Borough Market's Stoney Street (with The Times' Giles Coren's recent review serving to rave about its rotis).

Chet's has really embraced the versatility of roti on its menu (even offering Chicken 'n' Roti Waffles). 'New Wave Asian Street Food' takes centre stage in our 2023/24 food & drink trends whitepaper - and we very much expect the roti revolution to continue.

The Birria
Doms Subs, London
Quesabirria (or birria taco) is a Mexican dish comprising birria-style cooked beef (slow-stewed in a broth) folded into a tortilla with melted cheese, served with a side of consommé for dipping.

The birria taco pays no mind to mess, with Hackney-based Doms Subs offering the birria experience in sandwich form.

Its latest Birria sub features slow cooked beef in a homemade spice marinade, guacachile (a serrano chilli pepper salsa), cheese sauce, tajin onions, Mexican blistered peppers, and fire-roasted salsa, served with dipping beef consommé.

A viral food trend in the US starting around 2020; the birria concept is still gathering momentum in the UK, with 2022 the year in which social media first really got a hold of it.

XXL sandwiches are also in, with unrestrained indulgence and comfort the key drivers. Pair that with a decadent consommé, and you could have yourself a serious menu mover (it's not your fault if the customer wears a white t-shirt).
Food Trend to Food Concept

What to expect:

  • Understand the state-of-play with Asian-inspired chicken with an expert-led overview, innovator examples, and a spotlight on potential opportunity areas for the UK market.

  • Journey with us through fried/breaded chicken seasoning opportunities, exploring viable retail applications and digesting analysis.

  • Discover a brand-new retail seasoning concept as an example of our 'trend to concept' methodology, with the team discussing ingredient builds and suitability for the UK market.

  • Understand possible range expansions, backed up by AI-led product concept showcases.

Taipei Personality
Mondo Sando x Mr Bao, London
Speaking of dippable consommé, this is the Taipei Personality - a recent sandwich collab between Peckham-based Taiwanese spot, Mr Bao, and South London sub slingers, Mondo Sando.

Offered across Easter weekend, this sandwich was developed from the former's Taiwanese noodle soup.

We're talking low and slow soy, star anise & Sichuan peppercorn-braised beef; mustard green & pickle relish; black vinegar-dressed Chinese leaf; crispy noodles; and sesame mayo, served with pots of spiced consommé.

Those eagle-eyed among you will have picked up on the Sichuan peppercorns - the key ingredient for 'Mala', the term used to describe the spicy, numbing sensation in the mouth and a signature flavour of Chinese Sichuan cuisine.

Mala, one of our '10 UK Hospitality Food & Drink Trends to Watch for 2023/24', continues to gather momentum in the UK, with ever-rising consumer demand for globally-inspired spice elements driving innovators to explore new dish applications for the uniquely tongue-tingling, umami-boosting flavour bomb.

Bánh Mì Special
Mollis, Nottingham
Readers of our bi-monthly food & drink trends newsletter will recognise this Vietnamese Bánh Mì riff from fried chicken masters, Mollis in Nottingham.

Part of the new wave of nostalgia-driven comfort food innovators in the UK; Mollis is the brainchild of Michelin-starred chef Alex Bond and his team at Alchemilla, with their limited-edition "ode to the Bánh Mì" dropping in April.

This showstopper of a sandwich comprised tempura fried chicken, chicken liver parfait, sriracha, kewpie mayo, pickled chillies and Korean-style slaw.

Egg Soldiers recently embarked on a grand food tour across both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to discover potential avenues for modern Vietnamese dish development, with authentic 'Bánh Mì Pâté' examples really sticking with our co-founder and creative director, Toph Ford.

"Made with either pork or chicken livers and a mix of herbs and spices; the rich, flavourful, coarse pâté blended beautifully with butter, giving the Bánh Mìs that little bit extra moisture," Toph said of the sandwiches he tried there.

"While it's fair to say a few consumers might be a little unsure when it comes to first trying authentic Vietnamese Bánh Mì Pâté, there's clearly an opportunity here for the UK market, in line with evolving consumer palates and increasing demand for flavour-forward, globally-inspired eating experiences."
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Pimp my Fish
Experimental Sandwich Shop x BAIT, London
Finally, some fish. And not just any fish.

This is treacle-cured salmon pastrami from East London seafood popup, BAIT, with spring onion & ‘bacon dust’ cream cheese, house pickles, rocket and salsa verde (in a fresh hoagie roll from Ong Ong Buns).

The Experimental Sandwich Shop, which launched in April courtesy of Bad Boy Pizza Society (winners of the National Pizza of the Year 2022 award), is who we thank for this seafood-based sync up.

"Ever since we tried their [BAIT's] treacle-cured salmon pastrami, we knew we wanted to either whack it on a pizza, or get it between bread (or both)," the team said on Instagram.

"This cured salmon is supremely salty, tangy and rich in all the right ways. They cure the salmon for three days, with a spiced treacle and black pepper coating, which gives it that incredible pastrami character."

"Not only that, but the cured edges of the salmon are also used as a by-product that creates a beautiful fried crumb, that then runs through our spring onion and ‘bacon dust’ cream cheese."
UK food service action points 2023/24
  • Go beyond sliced white
    Choosing the right bread for your sandwich NPD is just as important as the development of flavour-forward fillings. And you'll have noticed none of the above examples feature the obvious.

    From potato rolls to kaiser rolls, milk bread to rotis; there are certainly plenty of options, with wraps and flatbreads currently in-vogue among highstreet chain operators.

    Regeneratively farmed wheat, pioneered by suppliers such as Wildfarmed, could add an appealing, altogether-sustainable differential to applicable bread options in this space.
  • XXL for the win
    Indulgent, comforting, Insta-worthy 'super-sandwiches' fairly toe the line between on-the-go accessibility and sit-down decadence.

    They can also seriously deliver on the perception of quality and, if priced right, value for money.

    Within the UK artisan sandwich arena, XXL sandwiches are becoming something of a norm, mirroring US trends and establishing new levels of food-to-go indulgence among hungry consumers.

    Don't hold back in development (and, if able, consider a rich, savoury broth/consommé for decadent dipping).
  • Spice it up
    From Middle Eastern-inspired meaty marinades to complex Southeast Asian sauces and spice blends; innovators continue to prove that the humble sandwich knows no bounds when it comes to flavour creativity.

    Excite and delight with bold flavour combinations, elevating well-known sauces and dressings with new, on-trend spice riffs.

    Innovate with the likes of chimichurri, salsa, mayo, hot sauce, tahini, slaw - put an original stamp on your new sandwich to stand out among adventure-seeking consumers.

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