Origin of the Sandwich

If I had to bet on what you ate for lunch today, I’d put my money on a sandwich. After all, 49 percent of U.S. adults eat at least one sandwich per day. And who can blame them? The savory filling between two slices of bread is convenient, satisfying, and customizable.

You may think the creator of such an ingenious meal was a renowned, talented chef, but that’s not the case. As the story goes, a gambler by the name Earl of Sandwich was too invested in his game to break for mealtime so he nibbled on “a piece of beef between two slices of bread” while placing his bets. The name quickly gained in popularity. When you ate two pieces of bread with something in the middle, you were eating a “sandwich.”

Sandwiches first appeared in American cookbooks in the early 1800’s, but recipes called for more than just meat between two pieces of bread. A variety of foods were added to sandwich recipes including cheese, condiments, fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

Today, you can find sandwiches on almost every menu of any restaurant—from fast food to gourmet.

Burgers are one of the most popular sandwiches with 9 billion purchased at US restaurants and other food outlets just last year. As consumers continue to demand high-quality ingredients, terms like “grass fed,” “natural,” and “hormone-free” are common burger descriptions on menus. Although the price of beef is expected to rise, there is no forecasted decline in burger consumption.

Another division of the sandwich category is deli and sub sandwiches. A majority of deli and sub sandwiches are prepared at home, however, they still top the charts of sandwiches purchased at foodservice outlets mostly due to their perceived healthy connotation and customizability. Subway, the leading deli sandwich provider with ownership of over 60 percent of the market, entices customers with a variety of topping allowing people to “eat fresh” on the go.

While burgers and deli sandwiches may have the greatest stake in the sandwich market, breakfast sandwich are expected to create competition. Breakfast sandwiches have displaced bacon in the top 10 breakfast items and are praised for their convenience and portability. McDonalds’, who offers 15 breakfast sandwiches, recently announced a trial in some restaurants to expand the time breakfast is offered so consumers can enjoy breakfast any time of the day.

Whether you have your sandwich for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you are sure to enjoy it with the many toppings, flavors, and dressings offered. I’d bet on it.


Technomic Inc. 2014. The sandwich consumer trend report. Technomic Inc., Chicago, Ill.

Datassential. 2014. The keynote report: sandwiches. Datassential, Chicago, Ill.