Consumers who want something a cut above fast food but aren’t ready to return to their pre-pandemic restaurant habits (and maybe never will) are driving huge growth in the grab-and-go sandwich category at grocery retail.

La Brea Bakery has loved watching how culinary teams at grocery stores have invigorated their premium sandwich offerings by incorporating La Brea breads in their grab-and-go sections, said Brie Buenning, La Brea’s marketing director.

“We’re excited to see more of this,” Buenning said. “While the classic sandwich still exists, finding a traditional baguette with layers of prosciutto, or vegetables layered on an ancient grain roll, is always an exciting option for consumers to find.”

Grab-and-go has been exponentially growing since 2020, when the pandemic fueled consumer desire for being able to grab a quick pre-made meal without sitting down in a restaurant, she added.

And the category is still experiencing growth, as consumers are keeping an eye out for timesaving and cost-saving ways to feed themselves and their families. This, Buenning said, is giving grocery stores an opportunity to continue to capture the fast-casual audience.

“Inflation has made consumers more conscious about the money they spend in restaurants, and made them not eat out as often,” she said. “However, they’re still looking for easy meal solutions and high quality, creative food options that are easy to take home and re-heat or eat on-the-go.”

These trends, she added, are driving the grab-and-go category throughout the food industry. During the pandemic, certain restaurants flourished by adding grab-and-go sections, and many are continuing to offer this as an option to their diners as the pandemic wanes.

“With consumers getting back to their busy lives, grab-and-go allows them the convenience to purchase a quick and easy meal without spending the time to make it, and without incurring the added expense of eating out.”

Recognizing the growth and attraction of the grab-and-go trend, the La Brea Bakery research and development team revamped the brand’s buns, rolls, and other sandwich carriers in a Thaw & Sell format that’s vegan-certified with an ambient shelf life up to four days.

The breads guarantee the great taste and texture that La Brea Bakery customers expect, Buenning said, while supporting premium sandwich options in the deli case. Using natural enzyme technology, La Brea Bakery sandwich carriers have an increased ambient shelf life of four days, enabling operators to free up freezer space and use the breads over several days, decreasing waste and maximizing profits.