‘Bigger, bolder flavours’ will transform UK’s number-one sandwich brand into number-one food-to-go brand

Urban Eat has refreshed its range with a big push into street food flavours, while parent Adelie has just announced a plant-based tie-up with Quorn.

8 August 2019
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In 2020, Urban Eat will have been in operation for a decade. To ensure it continues to lead the market over the next 10 years, the UK’s biggest sandwich brand has undergone the most extensive refresh in its history, updating its branding and reinventing its lines. Around £5m has been earmarked to promote the “bigger, bolder flavours” that the Adelie Foods subsidiary has introduced.

“In effect, we want to move from the UK’s number-one sandwich brand to the UK’s number-one food-to-go brand,” said Wayne Greensmith, head of category marketing at Adelie Foods, at an event to mark the relaunch.

Traditionally, the brand’s heartland has been universities and students, but it now hopes to appeal to a much broader range of consumers, as the numbers of people buying food-to-go steadily increases.

That means moving out of just classic sandwiches – though this will continue to play a core role. The new branding and products, which will be available to retailers from August 19, will include more hot food, as Urban Eat has noted that this segment has gone from making up 5% of the food-to-go category to 13%, including toasties, panini and ‘hot boxes’ that need to be heated before consumption.

Other targets for the business include breakfast, triple-sandwich packs and salads. Additionally, the company’s in-house data also shows that purchases of wraps have grown faster than rolls, sandwiches and baguettes, thanks to being perceived as lower in carbohydrates.

With the new options, Urban Eat’s overall offering will exceed 200 products, spread across a quartet of distinct ranges: Core, Deli, Street and Roots.

Taking to the street

Of the four ranges, two are entirely new. 

Taking influences from the increased consumer interest in global street food flavours, the Street sub-brand includes options like bacon naan, vegan bean burrito, and mozzarella and tomato topped flatbread.

“What we’ve tried to do with the street food range is very much world flavours and world cuisines, so a lot of spice, a lot of heat,” Greensmith tells Food Spark, highlighting Mexican and Indian as cornerstones.

Tying into the ambitions to get its products into other channels, Urban Eat has also created Deli, which is designed to fit into coffee shops and tap into cafe culture. This is where a number of the hot options fit in, as well as a new the new smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel.

The company will be building upon its Roots range, which encompasses vegetarian and vegan sandwiches and wraps that have been approved by the Vegetarian Society. There are no plans as yet to include meat analogues, though there is a Dirty Jack Wrap made using jackfruit. Parent Adelie Foods, however, has just announced a partnership with Quorn.

Finally, the reconstituted Core offering will include a new premium range of sarnies like chicken and avocado, as well as options under 400 calories. In response to consumer research that showed a desire for transparency, nutritional information will be displayed front-of-pack across the board, alongside information about ingredient origin.

“Where we have got provenance, whether it be British protein, whether it’s palm oil from sustainable sources, sustainable tuna, we call that out on the pack,” notes Greensmith, adding that this is most evident in the premium range, as traceable foods tend to be more expensive.

Where relevant, free-from claims are also clearly noted – and strictly monitored.

“Whether it’s halal or gluten-free, our technical standards as a business are really, really high,” adds Greensmith. “We’re taking about segregation, clean down. We’ve got BRC unannounced audits to our factories.”

Aiming for 100% recyclability

A significant amount of work has gone into making the new Urban Eat packaging not only more attractive but also more sustainable. The target is to be“100% recyclable in every packaging format” in three years, according to Greensmith, who notes that the business is about halfway towards that goal.

“I think the challenge we have – and a lot of retailers have it at the moment – is a balance between food waste and packaging waste,” he continues. “Our salads are a good example. They’re in a plastic bowl, they’ll be sealed... If you’re a retailer, that can be on your shelf for three or four days. But if we cut that back and put that into recyclable board, it goes into the bin after two days.”

Urban Eat is putting suppliers under pressure to try and find solutions to this quandary – and progress is being made. To return to the salad bowl example, Greensmith notes that where the plastic in the previous salad bowl was 55% recyclable plastic, the new range will see that rise to over 90%.

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