It’s no secret that we’re a nation of biscuit lovers – something which has continued to ring true throughout the pandemic.
Worth £2.96 billion in retail (Kantar), biscuits are a shopping basket essential for 99.5% of households (Kantar).
“In convenience, biscuits remain a crucial category for retailers to get right, worth £270 million in this channel (up 7.2%), says Scott Snell, Vice President of Customer at pladis UK&I. “What’s important to remember here, though, is that a bigger range of products isn’t always better. In fact, 80% of biscuit sales come from just 5% of products, meaning wholesalers should prioritise the bestselling lines year-round to support their retail customers, whilst boosting their own sales in the process.”
Six of the 10 bestselling biscuit products in convenience stores are pladis brands. These are McVitie’s Milk Chocolate Digestives, McVitie’s Milk Chocolate Hobnobs, McVitie’s Digestives, McVitie’s Classic Caramel Bliss V.I.Bs, McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes and Flipz Milk Chocolate (Nielsen).
“The forthcoming HFSS marketing restrictions – and consequent loss of additional sightings and introductory promotions – mean that driving visibility and encouraging trial of NPD will prove tricky. But we all know that feeling of spotting an exciting new snack from our favourite brands on-shelf, so if a product is compelling enough, shoppers will still go out of their way to purchase it,” adds Snell.
“In fact, the removal of some off-shelf features provides a great opportunity to re-energise the biscuit fixture, engage shoppers and drive incremental sales. We’ve been working closely with our retail partners to ensure the fixture becomes a more compelling area to shop, by introducing POS such as our branded McVitie’s bays. We’d recommend wholesalers take note of this, and continue to use beacon branding and clear signage for McVitie’s to point their retail customers in the direction of Britain’s Biggest Biscuit Brand.”
The biscuit category remains important to shoppers seeking a little boost, whether that’s during an extra-special tea break, or as an evening treat on the sofa. With feelings of uncertainty around Covid-19 still underlying, pladis expects to see growth in slightly more indulgent propositions and special treats as shoppers seek out little pick-me-ups.
The recently launched McVitie’s Blissfuls is a first-to-market innovation which sees a McVitie’s biscuit filled with a mouthwatering Belgian milk chocolate cream centre, flavoured with either hazelnut or caramel, created especially for sharing.
McVitie’s BN has been relaunched to attract a wide range of family shoppers, as well as those looking to cut down on calories, as Mini BN biscuits contain just 35kcals each, while the full-sized biscuits contain just 85kcals each.
McVitie’s is worth £461M (Nielsen) – making it the number one biscuit brand in the UK – but it’s also purchased by 83.4% of households (The Hartman Group). Looking at convenience specifically, the biscuit category is worth £270 million (Nielsen), growing 18.1% YOY (Kantar).
“Wholesale depots are big places, so it’s important that wholesalers focus on maintaining stock of the bestselling products and driving visibility of these key lines in-depot in order to deliver a fulfilled shopping trip to their retail customers – boosting sales in the process,” says Snell.
“Wholesalers can generate higher sales growth through mindful merchandising,” Snell continues. “This means clearly communicating the bestselling biscuit lines in-depot – for example, by beacon branding with McVitie’s or Jacob’s at the end of the aisle. This will help to point retailers in the direction of the biscuits, whilst also earmarking the bestselling SKUs – helping to drive sales.
“Essentially, it’s all about making the shopping experience as seamless as possible by utilising clear signage and dedicating plenty of space in-depot to satisfy demand for the bestselling products.”
Lisa Manning, Category and Insight Manager at Border Biscuits, comments: “Building on renewed interest in health following the pandemic, increasingly shoppers are finding ways to increase self-care and wellness that go beyond restrictive diets or fitness regimes. There’s a real opportunity for brands to play a role in how they make the consumer feel – both physically and psychologically.
Enjoying a cup of tea and a biscuit creates a moment that matters, offering consumers a comforting break and time to themselves.
“We expect this trend to continue as there is an increased emphasis around self-care and a more holistic view on health and what that means for individuals,” adds Manning. “Wholesalers should look to stock brands that cater to this trend of selfcare as people continue to look for more memorable products and experiences at home or when visiting their local café for example.”
There will be further challenges in the months ahead, with health returning to the forefront of shopper’s minds and HFSS regulations upon us.
“HFSS is set to completely overhaul the biscuit category, but we still want to reassure wholesalers that there is huge opportunity for premium biscuits,” says Manning. “We pride ourselves on producing great quality biscuits and would never want to remove the ingredients that make our products so enjoyable for consumers.”
Border offers a range of pack sizes to suit every biscuit consumption occasion – from mini packs to portion controlled options that offer customers a more permissible treat for when wholesalers are considering their range for this year and ahead.
Jo Harwood, Sales Director at Burton’s Biscuit Company, comments: “Over the last 12 months of lockdowns, the biscuit category has seen a boom with sales increasing 3.4%. This is attributable to shoppers buying more per trip and trading up to more premium, treatier options alongside their everyday favourites.”
“During this period of uncertainty, shoppers turned to trusted brands; prioritising familiarity, flavour and value for money,” Harwood continues. “Qualities synonymous with our brands. We are lucky to have some of the nation’s best-loved, heritage biscuit brands in our portfolio, and they are benefiting from shoppers’ and consumers’ increasing desire to give themselves a little treat.”
As a result, many Burton’s biscuits grew ahead of the category, with everyday treats brands such as Jammie Dodgers seeing 6.4% growth, and our more premium sweet biscuit offering from Thomas Fudge’s growing 45.6% (Nielsen).
Over the last 12 months shoppers have switched out of the healthier and cereal category into the likes of portion packs, particularly focused around the under 100 calorie products. This has been driven by changes in perceptions of health and consumers looking for portioned controlled treats rather than traditionally perceived ‘healthier’ products.
Whilst the focus of this growth was from kid’s lunch boxes, there were an additional 21 million mini biscuit portion pack occasions from adults aged 35-64 with no children, thanks to shoppers wanting treats but without the guilt or risk of overconsumption. This has been reflected in the phenomenal growth of Burton’s Minis range, with Maryland Minis and Jammie Dodgers Mini’s in 32.3% and 21.5% growth respectively (Nielsen).
This growth can in part be attributed to the success of Burton’s ‘Minis Get Moving’ campaign, which saw the return of its popular on-pack promotion. Back for a second year, the promotion forms part of Burton’s ongoing initiative to encourage children to get active by offering instant-win prizes across the Maryland Minis and Jammie Dodgers minis portfolio. Coinciding with the summer holidays and back to school occasions, this year’s campaign has already seen over 3 million promotional packs sold.
Special Treats also performed well into the back end of last year and into 2021. With economic and political uncertainty in the air, shoppers and consumers are looking to cheer themselves up with little treats – which is driving the growth of treatier biscuits. This was reflected in the growth of Burton’s premium sweet biscuit offering Thomas Fudges, +45.6% YoY (Nielsen).
“Biscuits typically feature in most shoppers’ weekly shops, so we expect footfall down the main aisle will remain largely unaffected by HFSS. However, HFSS will undoubtedly impact impulse sales of biscuits. We predict the biggest impact will be felt from shoppers on a top up mission, popping in for a few items who may have previously picked up a pack on impulse when they see biscuits on a gondola end on promotion,” adds Harwood.
“Standout on shelf on the main fixture will become increasingly important in lieu of secondary sitings no longer available to the category, with impactful pack designs, SRP’s and POS key to achieving this alongside discount-led promotions.”
Mathew Bird, brand director for Sweet Treats at Premier Foods, comments: “Over the last year we’ve been proud to see continued growth across our cake brands, with Mr Kipling in particular boasting a strong 2020 which has carried through into this year as well.”
Experiencing sales growth of 2.8% to £164m, and increase in market share from 15.9% to 16.1% (IRI), this can largely be attributed to the launch of a number of new products and strategic range extensions, alongside a sustained national TV presence further strengthening Mr Kipling’s position as the UK’s favourite cake brand (IRI).
Despite cake consumption being impacted during the Covid-19 pandemic by the understandable restrictions on celebratory gatherings and seasonal occasions, Mr Kipling and Cadbury Cakes combined contribute £200m retail sales value to the category (IRI).
“Both brands are key in unlocking further growth, alongside our commitment to continuing to cater to a variety of consumption occasions and consumer trends,” adds Bird.
Premier Foods is adding Dairy Milk Cupcakes to its Cadbury Cakes range. Its existing cupcakes range continues to perform well, with the Cadbury Heroes Platter driving sales of over £1.1m in the past year (IRI). Susan Nash, Trade Communications Manager at Mondelez International, comments: “OREO – the world’s number one biscuit– has unveiled a new collaboration with the biggest superhero of all time ahead of the highly anticipated film, ‘The Batman’. This world-class partnership will see an unmissable promotion rolling out across key OREO products both on-pack and off-pack as well as a unique Batman-embossed biscuit to drive real excitement in store.”
Elsewhere, French biscuit brand, LU, is launching four biscuit varieties in the UK. Le Petit Chocolate, Le Petit Beurre, Le Petit Biscotte, and Le Petit Citron will offer customers a quintessential taste of France to enjoy at home with friends and family.
OREO is playing a pivotal role in recruiting new shoppers through appealing to families, with 50% of its audience being under 45 (Kantar). Ritz, the number one savoury biscuit brand (Nielsen), continues to provide a versatile snack great for sharing and nibbling, while offering more options for consumers looking for an alternative to crisps.
Sharing formats and multi-packs became increasingly important during lockdown as shopper dynamics changed and many consumers looked for treats that they could share at home during time with family and loved ones. Well-established family favourite, Cadbury Fingers, has seen growth aided by shopper trends paired with significant innovation and investment. The brand is growing at 29% (Nielsen) year on year through leveraging key Cadbury chocolate flavour trends, such as chocolate orange flavour.
Health and wellness have never been as important as they are now, after two years of facing the challenges brought on by the pandemic. Many consumers are placing an even higher focus on their wellbeing – whether that be physical, mental, or both – than ever before. In fact, 25% of shoppers are more influenced by health when shopping than pre-pandemic (IGD).
Healthier options remain important for consumers who are looking for healthier ingredients such as oats and other wholegrains – but won’t compromise on taste. BelVita, for example, is well placed to help wholesalers and retailers take advantage of these continued long-term trends as the UK’s number one healthier biscuit brand as defined by Nielsen, and the only biscuit range with proven slow-release carbohydrates.
“At Mondelez International we have a strong track record of offering more portion control options and developing lower sugar recipes for some of our most iconic brands, as part of our ongoing commitment to help tackle obesity and help consumers lead healthier lifestyles,” adds Nash. “We’re committed to meeting shoppers’ evolving needs, covering the full spectrum from nutrition to emotional wellbeing, through our wide range of products and formats.”