The star power of upscale proteins may draw customers to gourmet burgers, lobster rolls and artisanal hot dogs, but premium carriers elevate the appeal of America’s favorite summer sandwiches—and can prompt diners to spend a bit more. Fifty-eight percent of consumers said they would pay more for premium breads in a sandwich, according to Technomic’s 2016 Sandwich Consumer Trend Report.
“Choosing a bun that complements the protein can really drive sales,” says Cindy Lawson, vice president of trade development for Flowers Bakeries Foodservice.
Today, there is a wide array of buns to suit various sandwiches. A rich brioche bun or hearth-baked kaiser roll is an inspired match for a fully dressed gourmet burger. A tasty potato or cornbread bun enhances pulled pork barbecue. An onion bun adds another flavor layer to a sandwich without the operational complexity of handling fresh onions.
The most popular buns add flavor to sandwiches without overshadowing the fillings. White buns are perennial top-sellers, followed closely by sesame-seed. Whole-wheat, whole-grain, brioche, potato, rye and sourdough are also in play. Pretzel rolls are also in the mix, although not as trendy as a few years ago. Lawson urges operators to choose buns that are appealing to customers, yet also recognizable and approachable. “People today are willing to go a little bit farther outside their comfort levels than in the past, but not too far out,” says Lawson.
The New England frank bun is a versatile carrier for elevating summer sandwiches. In contrast to side-cut buns, this one is split on top to show off the filling. In addition, it has two flat sides that can be buttered and grilled to add flavor, color and texture. Originally a regional specialty for hot dogs, the New England is now in widespread use for everything from lobster rolls to chicken tender sandwiches. “If you are going to put a premium food like lobster in a bun, you want a really nice carrier,” says Lawson. “This is great for all sorts of proteins.”
Along with flavor and presentation, the performance of a bun is also key. Oversized artisan sausages, gourmet burgers and hefty barbecue sandwiches need buns that maintain their integrity when held. For generous summer sandwiches like those, it is advisable to choose larger, sturdier carriers with premium formulations.
For instance, consider a signature burger garnished with bacon, avocado and a fried egg. “A nice, dense brioche roll or maybe a hearth-baked kaiser roll is going to absorb some of the moisture of the meat and toppings without becoming a sponge or falling apart,” says Lawson. Hearth-baked buns have a crusty texture and tight crumb that stays intact. “There is nobody unhappier than the person whose burger bun falls apart while they’re eating it,” says Lawson.
It is vital for the menu to communicate the type of bun used in the sandwich. “Whether it is a brioche bun, whole-wheat bun or pretzel roll, giving the consumer that information enhances the overall impression of the sandwich,” Lawson says.
This post is sponsored by Flowers Foods