Mar 08

Sandwich Squeeze

FT + Pumpkin Publog11 comments • 748 views

Something that became miserably clear to me last week: Marks & Spencers have brutally culled their sandwich range – goodbye most of the black-label “food to go” range which brought us the Steak & Blacksticks Blue sandwich (probably the nicest EVER CREATED by a British supermarket chain) among others. The black-labels have been replaced by an odd range of tortillas, kinda-sorta-open sandwiches and things which look like someone’s started making a wrap and wandered off before the actual wrapping happens. All these new things cost a lot and have visibly less filling – not surprising given the cost squeeze on food suppliers as prices rise.

There’s been another subtle change in the sandwich range though: everything possible is now branded “British”. Ham and cheddar is now British Ham and Cheddar; British Chicken and British Beef feature prominently. This vaguely irked me but from a marketing POV emphasising British provenance is a win-win at the moment: it appeals to one segment because it feels less carbon-intensive, and to another (possibly quite different) segment because, well, it’s British. “Buy British” has in the past been associated with an appeal to protectionist, socially conservative ‘little Englander’ values, which won’t have been wholly absent from M&S’ calculations, seeing as the M&S brand itself is a bastion of home counties Englishness. I think the confidence with which they’re using it here though is a reflection of the rise in respectability of British food and British cookery over the last decade. Presented right, “British” has become a premium label as well as a simple patriotic one – which handily lets M&S shunt up sandwich prices as food costs spiral.

All of which doesn’t help me at lunchtime as my options continue to narrow – something has gone very wrong with Pret in the last six months or so, too. At this rate I may have to actually keep my regular resolution of making my own sammiches.

(crossposted with Blackbeard Blog)


  1. 1
    Lena on 30 Mar 2008 #

    Can you get bagels easily in London, or bagel sandwiches? (I mean to go, not in a supermarket.)

  2. 2
    stevem on 30 Mar 2008 #

    yes I loved the steak and BB cheese sandwich altho wasn’t entirely convinced by the bread. would it kill M&S to do a range of bloomer sandwiches? this is the only advantage Greggs have in any way in the takeaway sandwich department.

    Benugo have been peddling ‘British chicken’ in their grilled sandwich specials for some time too. I’m for it if only for that carbon-conscious angle, but they should go even further and brand poultry by county. This would diffuse any qualms over the nationalist connotation to be replaced with cuddlier “oooh it was from within 30 miles of here, nom nom” sentiment.

  3. 3
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 30 Mar 2008 #

    there are old-skool east-end beigel shops — a famous one in brick lane for example — and there are railway-station shops which semi-specialise (well there’s one at euston anyway)

    otherwise it’s probably luck of the draw — some areas yes, there’s a sandwich shop where bagels are on the menu; others, no

    i don’t think any of the sandwich chains like pret currently do them but i am these purely a ho for pret soup and coffee — obv my sporadic non-carb dieting has caused a collape in the sandwich market :(

  4. 4
    stevem on 30 Mar 2008 #

    there’s a few Mr Bagel branches hidden around town too but very few and far between. generally more are to be found in the North and East of the city than in the South or West.

  5. 5
    jel on 30 Mar 2008 #

    I like the new M&S ham and salad sandwich!

  6. 6
    Mark M on 30 Mar 2008 #

    Yes, for some reason there’s a strong bagel=station food connection In London. There used to be a couple of chain bagel places in Soho, I think now there are none. There’s one on Fleet Street. I wonder whether the problem is that they seem a bit poor on the value for money front (you need at least two for lunch, but they aren’t priced like that).
    As far as I’m concerned, Pret only does two good things: the chocolate bar, and the Five Bean Cassoulet.
    M&S’s vegetarian sandwich options have always been incredibly unappealing, so I have rarely even check what they’ve got.

  7. 7
    Marcello Carlin on 31 Mar 2008 #

    My Pret options are severely limited by their curious policy of spoiling perfectly good sandwiches by the insertion of huge clumps of grass. Ditto Tesco, who currently only have two edible sandwich options, neither exactly uplifting.

    Anyway, nice to see M&S hop on the I’m Backing Britain campaign 40 years too late…

  8. 8

    “huge clumps of grass”, bcz no one ever went broke treating the consumer like sheep

  9. 9
    Marcello Carlin on 31 Mar 2008 #

    I’m with Roger Whittaker on this one – “NO BLADE OF GRASS”

  10. 10
    Andy M on 7 Apr 2008 #

    Steak & Blacksticks Blue is back, in its own bag, for some reason.

  11. 11
    Tom on 8 Apr 2008 #

    Only at selected outlets :( – we still have the poxy gourmet to go ones instead.

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