British people love their biscuits and baked treats and never more so than in the cold, dark days of winter. The biscuit sub-category alone is worth £2.6 billion in the UK, even without taking the wider baking category (including cakes) into account. Our suppliers in this feature each have their individual propositions, but they all agree on one thing; that even as shopping habits change, there are still plenty of us here in the UK who are enjoying rich and satisfying treats in the form of biscuits, cakes and desserts! That means retailers need to ensure they’re stocking items that appeal today’s on-going trends, like convenience, health and (obviously) great flavours. Stuart Graham, Customer Marketing Director at pladis UK & Ireland explains: “The needs of modern shoppers are continuing to evolve. As consumers move away from traditional eating patterns, opting for more frequent, smaller and less formal eating occasions, snacking now presents an even bigger opportunity for retailers to drive biscuit sales.”

The global snacking company owns a number of household UK brands such as McVitie’s, but it is also now bringing favoured American treats to its UK portfolio in 2020. These include chocolate-covered pretzel snack brand Flipz, whose ‘swavoury’ (sweet and savoury) variants come in three flavours; Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel. Stuart says that his firm’s extensive research into UK snacking habits reveals there are five key drivers of snack consumption for British shoppers. These are; balance–choosing snacks to look good and feel good; sustain–snacking for the essential fuel to get through the day; indulgence–seeking out a treat or reward; discovery–trying new flavours and textures; and togetherness–sharing a snack during moments of enjoyment with friends and family. Retailers which factor these five drivers into their cakes and biscuits section will reap the rewards in footfall and increased purchases.

One manufacturer who is looking to meet these consumer needs is Burton’s Biscuit Company, and a key company theme is enabling consumers to make informed choices, allowing them to enjoy biscuits and snacks which suit their individual lifestyle. The company therefore recognises the importance of offering a variety of permissible snacks which cater to different consumer needs and occasions and has a wide range of initiatives to drive the UK agenda on sugar, portion control and calorie reduction. One such initiative is the rollout of the Burton’s ‘Under 100 Calorie Club’, accelerating demand for its market-leading ‘less than 100 calories’ range, with products suitable for consumers of all ages.

Isabel Lydall, Category & Insights Controller at Burton’s Biscuit Company says: “Burton’s will be backing the Under 100 Cal Club with a range of in-store activation throughout 2020 and will be engaging consumers with activations which bring the club to life and encourage them to think about responsible snacking. Burton’s [also] plans to extend the range to include more options from its best-selling brands at less than 100 calories a serve.”

The Under 100 Cal Club range has a number of different variants under the Jammie Dodgers and Maryland brands, which include; Jammie Dodgers Minis (89 kcal a portion) MRSP £1; Jammie Dodgers Jam & Yogurt Snacks (97 kcal a portion) MRSP £1.39; Maryland Minis Choc Chip (99 kcal a portion) MRSP £1; Maryland Minis Double Choc Chip (99 kcal a portion) MRSP £1: Maryland Oaty Cookie Bars (94 kcal a portion) MRSP £1.39; and Maryland Chocolate Cookie Bars (97 kcal a portion) MRSP £1.39. In addition, following a successful sugar reduction programme on the core Maryland products followed by the introduction of less than 100 calorie packs across its Minis range, Maryland Cookies are now even more accessible to consumers looking to reduce their sugar intake, thanks to Maryland Sugar Free Cookies. The sugar free offering has an MRSP of £1.39 for the 230g pack.

Good intentions in January after the festive season fun aside, Charlotte Hulbert, Sales Manager at Brioche Pasquier suggests that perhaps most of us normally just mix and match our choices when it comes to eating cakes and biscuits, enjoying both guilty pleasures and healthy substitutes in equal measure. “[Though] there are some who have taken the high road and are snacking on plain, unsalted nuts and healthy seeds,” she jokes. When it comes to cakes however, she says that French-style pâtisserie has become one of the on-trend forms of sweet treat in 2020 Great Britain. “The elegant size and shape of beautiful pâtisserie like macarons is enticing and will attract buyers into that impulse purchase. Visual presentation is just as important as taste with this sort of product,” Charlotte comments, “Macarons are beautiful, desirable and make a very special gift.”

Brioche Pasquier’s first chilled macarons range, Macarons ‘Incontournables’, offers retail customers the true taste of premium French pâtisserie. The flavours in the new range include classic British favourites like Chocolate, Pistachio, Vanilla, Raspberry, Lemon, and Coffee. They also have the French treat’s traditional signature; a delicate crunch on the outside and a soft velvety centre. Charlotte says that for retailers preparing a gift offer or a seasonal display for events like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day or Easter, the new brand’s range would be ideal. “Try promoting them as part of a deal alongside products such as bouquets, gift boxes or wines,” she advices retailers. “Or create a truly French luxury gift offer in the chiller cabinet—a box of Macarons ‘Incontournables’ and a bottle of Champagne.”

Not all occasions to have a piece of cake or nibble on a biscuit will be special ones however, and retailers’ stores can also benefit from snacks for more ordinary everyday life. Edinburgh based Nairn’s, the UK’s number one producer of oatcakes, as well as the UK’s number one producer of Gluten Free products, is providing British shoppers with an extensive and growing range of oat-based products (including oatcakes, crackers, flatbreads, sweet biscuits, cereals and snacks) to cover every social occasion. One of its latest additions is Nairn’s Gluten Free Apple & Cinnamon Chunky Biscuit Breaks. The high fibre content of these Chunky Biscuit Breaks helps health-conscious consumers to feel fuller for longer, as the biscuits provide people with a slower release of energy throughout the day, also making them perfect for coeliacs, or just the growing number of British people who are choosing to follow a gluten free lifestyle in 2020.

Healthy snacking is an important part of and always the basis for much of the appeal of Nairn’s many oat-based products. The firm remains a UK leader in producing lower sugar biscuits using this ingredient; in 2018 an Action on Sugar report found that Nairn’s sweet biscuit ranges had the lowest sugar per 100g and the second lowest calories per 100g of all the products surveyed by the group in the UK. Nairn’s new Oats, Apple & Cinnamon Chunky Biscuit Breaks are no exception to this rule, with an impressive 50% less sugar in them than the average gluten free sweet biscuit. Each one is worth only 63 calories per biscuit. This new flavour is the third in the Chunky Biscuit range and joins Oats, Coconut & Dark Chocolate Chip and the award winning Oats, Blueberry & Raspberry. These Chunky Biscuit Breaks variants all come in handy pouch packs, making them easy to pop in a bag for a healthy mid-morning or afternoon snack, essential for health-conscious customers on the go all day.

“While some research may show consumers are snacking less than they have done in the past, we believe they are being more selective in the snacks that they choose and searching for the permissible treats—the biscuits that are worth the calories—rather than moving away from snacking altogether,” argues Suzie Carlaw, Marketing Manager at Border Biscuits. “Consumers continue to search for that lovely eating experience of something sweet that also satisfies them.”

According to Carlaw, recent Kantar data has shown seasonal sales of cakes and biscuits to be down by approximately 11% year on year. This highlights that UK shoppers are currently looking for products that are available all year round and not just on seasonal occasions like Christmas or Eid al-Fitr. Stores that stock different products provide consumers with more options and ultimately more reason to go into stores. Border Biscuits have a number of consumer favourites on offer, including their Dark Chocolate Ginger and Lemon Drizzle Melts ranges, and the Sharing Pack. This product offers a shared eating experience with premium quality that is appreciated in a wide variety of situations such as business meetings and catch ups with friends. The company also offers retailers a giftable Dark Chocolate Ginger pack that is available all year round.

“The [Border Biscuits] brand has been supported by above the line marketing throughout the last year with the latest being a television campaign centred on the famously fiery flavour of our Dark Chocolate Gingers,” Suzie comments. “We are also excited about the introduction of the new Mini Pack Counter Display Unit in the convenience channel, featuring our two most popular mini pack varieties – Light and Buttery Viennese Whirls and Divinely Chocolatey Cookies.”

It is clear from the wide array of both healthy and traditional biscuit and cake products that suppliers are offering to retailers that the biscuit and cake sub-categories of the wider snacking channel are in good health; consumer tastes have broadened but the demand is being met. However, the sector’s sales managers also have some straightforward advice for retailers looking to maximise sales for themselves in-store. Firstly, retailers can beacon brand their snacks aisle to attract consumers with household brands like McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes, advises Stuart from snacking firm pladis. Secondly, Suzie from Border Biscuits says that retailers need to ensure all lines are fully stocked and ready to be shopped as consumers make their way through the shop’s aisles. Stocking special treat products can also provide a boost to retailers, with many consumers looking for lower fat, salt and sugar options that don’t compromise on quality according to Isabel from Burton’s Biscuit Company. Finally, products for special dietary requirements appeal to an increasing segment of UK shoppers, so stores should remember to stock up on things like gluten-free products in order to increase footfall.

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