About 6 months ago or so I was contacted by a company I do focus groups for. Usually there on beer but with getting older my age demographic changed so I’ve been getting more food related groups. This group I was chosen for had to do with sandwiches and more importantly eating sandwiches! Were never told what brand it’s for until the group starts or we see some advertising samples, for this session Tim Hortons was the vendor and a grilled panini sandwich was the topic. After a brief introduction or first round of sandwiches came out but we didn’t know what kind it was, we just had a description and it was like this for 3 different panini’s. All of them were really good but needed slight tweaking with certain flavors. When these new sandwiches finally hit the stores about a week ago for regional testing, the West Coast and Prairie Provinces were chosen for this with Ontario getting them at the end of August. During the focus group we were given full-sized sandwiches, after taking as many bites as we wanted a short survey is filled out on a computer and we cleansed our palate with water and saltines.
What turned out to be the first one we tried in the group was the Tuscan Chicken Panini. I liked this at the group and equally liked the final product just as much. They’ve improved the seasoning of the chicken and the roasted tomato mayo that is used in the panini, the onions and tomatoes added a nice crunch and flavor. One negative thing about the sandwich is the fact it’s a bit messy to eat because of the chunks of chicken but in the grand scheme of things I’d order this again. The multigrain bread is a step up from their regular sandwich bread, the whole grains and oats are appreciated seeing they add nice flavor besides the obvious health benefits.
Next up is the Smoked Ham and Cheese Panini. This was my least favorite in the group but it’s been improved with the launch product. I found the original to be too smokey tasting and too much mayo was added, both of those were fixed in the final product. The one thing the in-store version suffered from was the fact the per-portioned meat was not fully spread out evenly in the panini resulting in a stone cold middle of the sandwich.
A Chipotle Turkey Panini was the last of the sandwiches I’ve tried from my local Tim Hortons. The test product was lacking heat but that’s been taken care of for the launch panini. There are sliced red onions and tomato on the sandwich as well as a chipotle mayo. Flavor wise this panini was lacking heat i the focus group but that has been solved with the panini available in the restaurant, the sauce is more spicy and the red onions add a nice bite of heat. with the flavors going on with the chipotle sauce the turkey kinda gets lost in the sandwich but I did enjoy the final version with the improvements.
Each of these sandwiches goes for $5.49 and the grilled cheese version is coming in at $3.99. I’d personally take one of these panini’s over their other sandwiches just for the fact they pack more flavor and the bread used is a lot better with the oats and whole grains used. One note I would like to make is that I paid for all of the sandwiches with my own $$ but I was paid for my time at the focus group I took part in.