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From cheese and pickle, to the BLT, everyone has a favourite sandwich. From its first foray on the shelves of Marks and Spencer almost 40 years ago, the pre-packed sandwich transformed how we eat lunch and quickly became a British staple.

Today, the British Sandwich industry is worth £8 billion a year, and, even as tastes have evolved and new contenders such as sushi and super salads have entered the lunchtime grab-and-go market, the traditional sandwich remains a firm favourite. But what about the packaging?

When the first sandwich hit the shelf back in 1980 it was encased within plastic, it was simply functional and practical to keep the sandwich fresh. Today, however, the packaging, and the branding messages which adorns it, plays a vital role.

In the battle for shelf space, retailers and food manufacturers are always on the look-out for efficient sandwich pack solutions which will stand out, provide convenience and flexibility, as well as a longer shelf life in a bid to reduce food waste. Clean labels depicting the nutritional content of the sandwich is important to the health conscious consumer, and they are increasingly seeking sandwiches with a home-made edge. Here, packaging is an essential tool as new design capabilities can create a hand drawn style to illustrate this.

While the time it takes to eat a sandwich, particularly while sat at a desk, can take under 5 minutes, in this short period of time a consumer can become engaged with a brand and they are increasingly, particularly the younger generation, seeking a more personalised experience. Together with a well defined marketing and social media campaign, retailers and manufacturers can today use packaging as a platform to interact with their consumers through new technology in digital printing.

Along with being eye-catching though, the expectation is for a sandwich pack to communicate so much more – from meeting new environmental standards, to being significantly lighter in weight.

Consumer demand has largely driven the evolution of sandwich packaging. While their appetite for new world cuisine and health trends has seen the sandwich itself receive a make-over, as conventional sliced white bread has been superseded by wraps and rye, and ham and cheese replaced with roasted vegetables, their increasing environmental awareness has led to a packaging overhaul too.

Couple this with stringent retail regulations to meet sustainable objectives, packaging suppliers have been sourcing eco-friendly alternatives for decades now and today the original plastic sandwich pack has been replaced as a myriad of sustainable alternatives have entered the market.

While new trends and foods will undoubtedly continue to influence consumers, the humble sandwich is still the nation’s favourite lunch and, according to reports, the average Brit will consume around 18,304 sandwiches in their lifetime. As a result, packaging suppliers will continue to evolve their offering by producing packaging in a wide variety of styles and sizes, enabling food manufacturers and retailers to continue to be flexible in their future sandwich offerings, while meeting sustainable goals.

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