The sandwich is an incredibly simple concoction — two pieces of bread and filling in the middle.
But the combination of ingredients you can add is nearly infinite, and there’s plenty of room for exploration. And that’s what many customers seek — tastes they’ve never experienced before.
Debbie Huber at Great Harvest Bread refers to a study that says interesting food is one of the top three reasons people are tempted to try a deli for the first time. Having something special is a massive competitive advantage. So as a deli owner, it’s crucial that you’re plugged into the hottest new flavor trends and tweak your menu accordingly.
Here are some of the top sandwich flavor trends that are driving tastes in 2018 that should be on your radar.
Pork Belly is In
The fact that Americans like pork is nothing new. It’s a food that’s been enjoyed for centuries. But what is new is the willingness to try different cuts of pork that haven’t traditionally been popular.
A good case in point is pork belly. Americans are eating more pork than ever, Washington Post food reporter Caitlin Dewey writes, and many food establishments have began introducing dishes made with pork belly. She says a big part of this trend stems from efforts by the Pork Board to popularize different cuts by publicizing pork recipes and rebranding several cuts. Dewey adds that the board has worked behind the scenes with food establishments and retailers to get pork bellies onto menus and into meat cases.
It’s worked. By the end of 2018, U.S. farmers are expected to produce as much pork as beef. With demand up, you’ll definitely want to consider offering customers a pork belly sandwich.
Marissa Stevens at the food blog Pinch and Swirl suggests constructing a sandwich by using oven roasted pork belly and adding sun-dried tomato mayonnaise, sweet tomato, lettuce and avocado on toasted sourdough bread.
So is Charcuterie
Food writer and author of eight cookbooks, Eric Akis, says that one of the trendiest foods at the moment is one that has actually been around for centuries — charcuterie. With a deep history that can be traced all the way back to the 15th century, meats that have been dried, cured and fermented are certainly nothing new.
Recently, though, there’s been a huge explosion in its popularity, and a new wave of eaters is coming to appreciate it. Food writer Paris Wolfe says charcuterie is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance, including a trend where people are returning back to historic food practices. While it’s traditionally served on a wooden board along with various breads and cheeses, you can also create a delicious charcuterie sandwich.
The Genius Kitchen team outlines one particular recipe that involves using either salami, pepperoni or prosciutto (or a combination of the three) and adding romano or parmesan cheese, mustard and butter. They recommend using a baguette for the bread, and then heating the sandwich on a warm skillet.
Jackfruit is Surging in Popularity
Jackfruit is a type of fruit that grows throughout Southeast Asia, Africa and Brazil. You’ll often see it offered at street markets and food stalls in countries like Thailand or the Philippines as a refreshing snack to combat the heat and humidity.
It’s a “miracle crop,” writes Suzanne Goldenberg at The Guardian, because jackfruit is easy to grow, is drought-resistant and can survive pests, diseases and high temperatures. Plus it’s good for you: Goldenberg cites biotechnology researcher Shyamala Reddy who points out the nutritional benefits of jackfruit, saying it’s rich in potassium, calcium and iron.
While North Americans largely ignored it in the past, jackfruit has become highly desirable in the past couple of years. In fact, the smelly fruit has witnessed a 131 percent growth in popularity since 2017, according to Upserve’s State of the Restaurant Industry Report for 2018.
Its distinct taste, which Erin Brodwin, who covers the future of food at Business Insider, describes as a cross between heart of palm, kimchi and pineapple is something that many people instantly fall in love with.
The Minimalist Baker team specifically recommends combining BBQ seasoning, pepper, chili powder and BBQ sauce to young, green jackfruit and adding an avocado slaw to crank up the flavor profile even more.
Beyond that, you could also experiment with jackfruit as a deli side item. With the demand for healthier foods on the rise, this could potentially serve as an alternative to pickles or chips.
Bacon Onion Jam is Delighting Taste Buds
There’s no need to mention that bacon is insanely popular. There’s even a National Bacon Day every December 30. And at this point, it’s been cooked and prepared in nearly every conceivable manner.
But one trend that’s wildly popular in 2018 is bacon onion jam. There are several ways to create this smoky, tangy delight, and Sam Sifton, food editor at The New York Times, provides a particularly delicious recipe.
He suggests using:
- ¾ pound slab bacon, diced into cubes
- 4 medium-size white or Spanish onions, peeled and diced
- 1 ½ teaspoons of mustard seed
- 2 ½ tablespoons of dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
When it comes to using bacon onion jam on a sandwich, one of the most popular options is the chicken club sandwich. Kevin Lynch at Closet Cooking outlines a tasty combination which uses a small chicken breast, two slices of bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo, sliced avocado, chipotle mayo and of course bacon onion jam.
But don’t think you have to stop there. This condiment also pairs well with fried chicken, grilled cheese and turkey.
Kimchi is a Highly Sought After Condiment
A longstanding staple in Korea, kimchi has now gained the affection of people worldwide. Possibly one reason why the spicy pickled cabbage is so popular is that it’s extremely versatile, Sue Pressey at My Korean Kitchen writes. In fact, she says kimchi “can be eaten on its own or cooked with almost anything.”
The Pagen team mentions an interesting way to incorporate kimchi into a sandwich and that’s to combine it to avocado and baby spinach. It’s incredibly healthy and has a delicious, one-of-a-kind flavor.
Food blogger Holly Sander at Taste And See has a recipe for a Kimchi Reuben, and she says it’s the “best ever.” It calls for:
- Sliced corned beef
- Swiss cheese
- Kimchi, drained
- Spicy Russian dressing (uses sriracha)
- Pumpernickel or marbled rye bread
She explains that it’s best when heated in a saucepan on medium heat so the bread comes out crisp and the cheese gooey.
People Crave Contrasting Flavors
Contrast has long been a fundamental element of amazing food. Andrea Feldman at Johnson & Wales University writes that contrasting textures and flavors help avoid taste boredom. Discovering ingredients that complement one another enlivens each bite and ensures an element of surprise.
In 2018, the element of discovery is more important than ever, especially when it comes to spicy foods. Kevin Hardy at QDR talks about a new trend in which more and more Americans are seeking out spicy foods. But there’s a caveat — they’re looking for sandwiches with heat and flavor: spicy paired with sweet, savory or tangy notes.
He offers some examples where McAlister’s Deli has recently started offering the Jalapeno Turkey Crunch Sandwich and a Verde Chicken sandwich — both of which feature a spicy jalapeno roll. For contrast, the turkey sandwich also features rich mayonnaise and avocado, and the chicken uses tomatillo salsa, garlic and cilantro to complement one another.
The takeaway here is that finding a way to incorporate flavor contrasts in your food items should help you win more of your customers over and keep them coming back for more.
Staying at the Culinary Forefront
In the deli world, there’s a place for tradition and a place for innovation. While certain items like classic pastrami and corned beef are great, it’s also nice to push the envelope every once in awhile.
The sandwich flavor trends listed here showcase some specific ways to do that in 2018. Whether it’s trying out new meats like pork belly, adding new condiments like kimchi or experimenting with flavor contrasts, this should this help you from a competitive standpoint and bring in more foot traffic to your store.