Brits spend £3bn each year on sandwiches, according to the British Sandwich Association. The sarnie is big business – and, in retail, largely produced by big businesses.
Anishya Kumar is looking to shake up the category and challenge the major players that dominate this food-to-go staple in supermarkets.
“It’s a category that is dominated by white label – everyone knows who the large players are and there only a handful,” explains the Zinda Foods founder. “They manufacture sandwiches on a massive scale, they change the names here and there, and change a few ingredients for everyone, but it’s pretty much the same. It’s been a long time since a brand has been on the shelf with a face behind the brand.”
Zinda Foods was created three years ago to sell ready meals and salads into independent stores. However, Kumar discovered that the home-made wraps she was making were resonating the most with consumers.
It led her to launch her own manufacturing facility to produce her trademarked AirWraps, which are free of preservatives, palm oil and trans-fat.
“It’s pretty much an antithesis of what a tortilla is today – it’s really its nemesis,” she tells Food Spark.
“When you flip the back of tortilla packet, you find long list of ingredients, which we find unnecessary. The AirWrap has five simple ingredients and no fatty acids, emulsifiers or preservatives. We don’t question enough why a product in the ambient or chilled aisle sits there for three or six months and it has become a norm to doctor what nature would turn mouldy. It’s a traditional recipe married with technical, hand-spun skills to give it a light, feel and texture.”
In 2017, the AirWrap was awarded the British Sandwich Association as the most innovative ingredient, with the judges describing it as a game changer.
But just selling the wraps on their own didn’t appeal to Kumar. She wanted control over the fillings to ensure they were not only fresh but creative, leading her to consult Michelin-star chefs for appealing options.
“It had to be appetising and taste good, but also be filling and substantial. I find a lot of other sandwiches and wraps people are disappointed with as there is hardly anything in it and get two or three pieces of chicken, limp lettuce and a stodgy wrap,” she explains.
“We wanted to find the right balance where consumers want to eat it every day, but also giving the added benefit of it being more wholesome and nutritious… and the base of the wrap is much lower in calories.”
Launched in 90 Tesco stores at the start of the year, there are six sandwiches in the range, including chicken Caesar, Moroccan chicken, Mediterranean feta cheese, Persian egg and spicy chipotle tuna.
A seventh option using pork has been removed as Zinda Foods goes through a halal audit as Kumar says a large base of the Muslim population wanted this premium choice.
She is also in advanced talks with a number of other retailers, as well as foodservice operators and even coffee shop chains about stocking the range.
Kumar is not going to stand still on NPD either, revealing quite the pipeline of innovation for the AirWrap.
She’s experimenting with flavoured and different textured wraps, as well as looking at meal kits – similar to what’s been done in the fajita space – that would be part of a collaboration with sauce companies.
There’s also a frozen range being developed, which will include vegan flavours and a seafood option.
AirWrap crisps could hit the snacking aisle too.