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The Popularity of the Sandwich

June 6, 2018

#NationalPicnicWeek: the most popular sandwich shops across the UK.

The popularity of the sandwich is credited with The Earl of Sandwich who ordered his valet to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of bread.

The Brits manage to consume over 11.5 billion sandwiches each year, 3.5 billion of those are pre packed sandwiches. In the UK there are over 300,000 people employed in the sandwich industry. Over 3.5 billion sandwiches are purchased in the UK with a total market value over £7.5 billion a year.

The popularity of the sandwich; how was such a huge market created?

It was created by accident in 1980 when an assistant at the M&S flagship store at Marble Arch wrapped up some leftover sandwiches from the in-store café. Without regard for health and safety they put them up for sale instead of binning them, they sold within minutes.

M&S liked this idea of ‘sandwiches to go’, and soon launched a trial of packaged sandwiches in five other stores (non-recycled this time). The first variety was salmon and tomato, but it was soon followed up in 1981 with prawn mayonnaise, which has been the best seller ever since.

M&S pioneered not only the concept of packaged sandwiches but also the method of packaging. Sometimes called ‘sand-wedges’, the method of cutting the sandwich into two triangles with the long sides on display allows the filling to appear more generous.

The British Sandwich Association was established in 1990 to set standards for commercial sandwich makers. It runs an annual British Sandwich Week that culminates in an awards ceremony.

 

The popularity of the sandwich

The term lunch

Lunch, the abbreviation for luncheon, is a meal typically eaten at midday. The origin of the words lunch and luncheon relate to a small snack originally eaten at any time of the day or night. During the 20th century the meaning gradually narrowed to a small or mid-sized meal eaten at midday. Lunch is commonly the second meal of the day, after breakfast. The meal varies in size depending on the culture, and significant variations exist in different areas of the world.

The word sandwich that we use today was born in London during the very late hours one night in 1762 when an English nobleman, John Montagu (1718–1792), the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, was too busy gambling to stop for a meal even though he was hungry. It is said that he ordered his valet to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of bread. With the popularity of the sandwich others began to order “the same as Sandwich!”

The popularity of the sandwich and the Earl of Sandwich’s legacy lives on today in more than just the name. John Montagu’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandson Orlando Montagu founded a chain of sandwich restaurants called Earl of Sandwich. The menu features an homage to the Earl’s first, most famous sandwich called the ‘Original 1762.’ The sandwich includes hot roast beef, sharp cheddar, and creamy horseradish sauce served on warm bread.

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