Wraps may not seem as popular as they once were when they first came on the scene, but no one can deny their perseverance in the marketplace — at the end of the day they’re just easier to eat while driving your car than a sandwich. But that’s not all that’s happening with the sandwich wrap these days — like most prepared, grab-and-go foods, it too is having its flavor profile reassessed to accommodate today’s more adventuresome consumer palate.
A lot of that change has centered on heat and spice, says Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director of market research firm Canadean. To illustrate the point, he says you only need to look at hummus as an example, which is used in many commissary-made wraps now.
“Heat is working in categories like hummus, where spicy products grew at a 22 percent rate for the year ending April 17, compared to the year earlier, according to IRI/Spins data,” Vierhile says. “That compares to just 2 percent growth for non-spicy hummus skus over the same period. Heat also works well in meat and dairy, paving the way for future innovation.”
The Real Wrap Co. of Bristol, England is a commissary that’s already risen to the challenge of incorporating new flavors successfully, while also expanding its initial offerings to include products other than wraps. So while wraps now only make up about 20 percent of its profits (the rest being sandwiches), Real Wrap still pays special attention to its namesake dish.
“We have a range of signature wraps invented by ourselves,” says Jason Howell, business development director for the company. “My favorite has to be the ‘El Jefe’ – chicken, chorizo, mushroom, onion, spinach, aioli and hot chili. We are always developing new flavors, and are in the development process of more as we speak. These include various pulled meats, falafel, and halloumi as headline ingredients, though not in the same wrap.”
Hot, spicy and Middle Eastern influences, as Vierhile says, are some of the most popular out there right now. This is also backed up by Nielsen data, which reported that ‘spicy’ as a cheese flavoring has increased by over 100 percent in the year ending April 30, and that the fastest-growing cheese flavors during that period were garlic and fine herbs.
Though Real Wrap delivers their wraps to clients exclusively in the United Kingdom, two of their three most popular varieties are Mexican in flavor profile, with the third being distinctly American — a perfect demonstration of how the evolution of consumer taste as evolved not just in America, but the world over.
“Our most popular flavor is a chicken fajita cold wrap,” Howell says, “closely followed by the chicken Caesar and BBQ pulled pork.”
Their extensive flavor profiles aren’t the only thing that’s made them successful, however — as always, it’s fresh prepared foods that do best, and that can be a difficult trick to pull off with prepared and shipped foods like wraps, which Technomic says only have a shelf life of one to three days.
“It's so important to use the finest and freshest ingredients,” Howell says, echoing all successful commissary representatives. “We use a network of suppliers, often going direct to the source to get ingredients straight out of the ground. One of the hardest things with bread, for example, is preventing it from drying out, so ours is baked overnight and delivered freshly for us to use every morning.”
That persistence in keeping their prepared foods fresh has won them more than distinction, too — they've actually been given funding to continue expansion of the company.
“We have been recognized for our success,” Howell says, “and have recently been awarded funding (from the Southwest Growth Fund) to expand our production facility due to the amount of jobs we have and will create in the local area.”
And with that in mind, who knows? Maybe wraps will make a comeback, sliding in on the tail of expanding consumer tastes and values. After all, in 2014, Technomic said that wraps only made up about 2 percent of any given prepared-foods retailer, but for Real Wraps, that is clearly no longer the case.
“We actually started out as a healthy fast food outlet specializing in filled wraps to order,” Howell says. “A local university heard about our popularity and asked us to do a pre-packed version. To cut a long story short, we ended up selling the shop and setting up a production unit. Our popularity and reputation grew quickly, and in 4 years our distribution radius now covers half of the UK.”