Plenty of new product development is driving the biscuit market forwards, with health and premiumisation at the forefront of the category.

Britain is turning into a nation of cookie monsters. In 2018 alone, they splashed out an additional £37.4m on biscuits and cookies through the supermarkets, taking market value to £2.9bn [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 30 December 2018]. But it seems the nation’s palate is slightly more discerning than Cookie Monster’s, with growth driven by healthier biscuits and premium treats.

“While healthier and premium biscuits represent two very different offerings within the category, their mutual success clearly highlights the evolving biscuit landscape,” says Stuart Graham, customer marketing director at McVitie’s owner Pladis UK & Ireland.

So how can biscuit suppliers ensure they move with the market and not get left behind? What form will this evolution take? And, is there any scope for these trends to work together in one product?

New products are inevitably a big part of the answer, particularly given that 99% of UK households already buy into the category, so it takes something new to boost their biscuit spend. And NPD is something biscuits haven’t been short of over the past year.

“Although the biscuit market is mature there’s plenty of innovation: in 2018 alone, there were more than 7,000 product launches in North America and Europe,” notes Lene Hald Pedersen, senior category manager for bakery at Arla Food Solutions.

In recent months, premiumisation has been a key focus and this should continue in 2019 and beyond, says Isabel Lydall, category & insights controller, Burton’s Biscuit Company.

“In order to drive premium and super-premium biscuits, suppliers should invest in the innovation pipelines of own-label premium biscuits and look to invest in established super-premium brands,” she says, noting Burton’s recent acquisition of Thomas Fudge’s as part of this strategy (see box out p31).

Fox’s has taken note by investing in new machinery to create the “world’s first” Double Dough Cookies, which sees two doughs brought together in a single biscuit. Priced at £2.20 for a pack of eight, the cookies are available in two variants – Strawberries & Cream and Salted Caramel & Fudge Brownie.

Double Dough Cookies were particularly challenging to develop, says Simran Sablok, Fox’s marketing director, as they had to make sure the flavours were equally strong and didn’t diminish over time, the doughs baked for the same amount of time and the join was exactly in the middle of the two flavours. With the challenges overcome, the business already has new Double Dough flavours in the works.

“Making biscuits more experiential is a great way to premiumise,” explains Ayisha Koyenikan, global food & drink analyst at insights agency Mintel.

She adds that temperature can be used to have a profound effect on the texture, taste and overall delivery of a product: “There are several examples of biscuits with fillings that can be microwaved to create molten, gooey centres that should appeal to the 31% of UK biscuit eaters that are interested in biscuits with indulgent fillings.”

Mondelēz International experimented with this in 2017 when it launched Cadbury Crunchy Melts. Each cookie, which can be eaten cold or heated in the microwave, contains a soft melting centre. In Australia, meanwhile, Tim Tam manufacturer Arnott’s has created biscuits designed to be enjoyed from the fridge (see box out p29).

But there are other avenues to explore beyond new eating experiences, and without the need for a fridge or microwave.

Pairing with established chocolate brands can also help, not only in terms of luxury positioning but by removing the choice for consumers as to whether they want to treat themselves with biscuits or chocolate.

“Biscuits have traditionally under-indexed compared to confectionery, for example, when it comes to treating yourself. But the amount of development that has happened in terms of combining chocolate and biscuits has brought the two together in a happy marriage,” says Sablok.

Pladis did this earlier in the year with its chocolate brand Godiva, expanding the range with  biscuit-based NPD. Called Godiva Masterpieces Biscuits, they are available in three flavours – Milk Chocolate Caramel Lion, Dark Chocolate Ganache Heart and Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Oysters. The lion, heart and oyster refers
to the moulded chocolate shape on top of the biscuits.

“We noticed an opportunity for Godiva to grow a branded presence in the category and fuel growth,” explains Graham. “Entering new territory by taking our signature chocolate into luxury biscuits has enabled us to tap into consumer demand for everyday indulgence.”

As with confectionery, the quality of the cocoa used matters more as the price point climbs. The same goes for other ingredients. “Growing numbers of consumers are seeking indulgence delivered by provenance, high-quality ingredients and engaging textures,” adds Burton’s Lydall.

That means taking it beyond simply the basic ingredients from standard chocolate to Colombian 65% cacao chocolate, coffee to Fairtrade Arabica coffee beans from Brazil, Sicilian lemon, sea-salted caramel and so on. These touches add to the luxury and help warrant a premium price point.

This is where the crossover between health and premium comes in. While chocolate is not considered the healthiest ingredient, flax, botanicals and nuts stand in good stead with health-conscious consumers. When it comes to healthy biscuits it’s often about boosting the nutritional profile rather than stripping things out.

“Fruit pieces and seeds as textural inclusions have exploded in the confectionery market with a perception of slightly ‘better for me’ – this, too, could represent a major opportunity in premium biscuits, satisfying both the experiential desire and balancing healthy lifestyles,” says Karen Crawford, managing director of premium biscuit brand Elizabeth Shaw.

Mintel’s Koyenikan believes that using natural ingredients with functional benefits is a way of making biscuits both healthier and more premium, noting strong growth across wider grocery.

“The use of functional botanical ingredients is seeing rapid growth. There has been a 177% increase in European launches that mention ‘turmeric’ in the product name, which is lauded for its anti-inflammatory properties,” she says.

Scottish oatcake manufacturer Nairn’s has incorporated on-trend ingredients such as chia. Its Coconut & Chia Oat Biscuits rolled out earlier this year with  the lowest sugar content of any of the Nairn’s sweet biscuit range. It has also premiumised its Chunky Biscuit Break range with “a thicker, crumblier product than the standard Biscuit Break, with more visible and plentiful inclusions, that still contain significantly less sugar than other biscuits”, says Nairn’s head of marketing Emma Heath.

Protein is another addition that can bring a higher price point plus different types of premium connotations linked to functionality. Arla’s Hald Pedersen highlights significant growth in protein-enriched biscuits, with 300 new products hitting the North American and European markets in 2018.

While there are products that tap into healthier and indulgent snacking trends, combining the two may not always be the answer as healthier biscuits and special treats fulfil different consumer needs.

“Even though healthier eating is extremely prevalent, shoppers still want to enjoy quality, indulgent treats,” explains Julien Lacrampe, trade marketing manager at Bahlsen. “Shoppers tend to consume healthy snacks on weekdays and treat themselves to more indulgent snacks at the weekend.”

Pump up the protein

Biscuits might not be the first choice of gym bunnies seeking a post-workout protein hit, but thanks to a recent wave of NPD, this could change.

Protein purveyor Grenade introduced two high-protein, low-sugar biscuits to its Carb Killa range in December, while Fuel10k released protein-packed soft bake breakfast cookies last summer. Arla Food Ingredients also added Whey Pro Biscuit containing its protein ingredient Nutrilac.

“Protein enrichment is a key trend in many food applications. We wanted to show our customers that it is possible for traditional bakeries to tap into this high-protein trend while keeping a nice-tasting product that functions well on existing production lines,” says Lene Hald Pedersen, senior category manager, bakery at Arla Food Ingredients.

Boosting the protein content of biscuits presents challenges. “Often, high-protein solutions require additional water in the mixing phase, so need a longer baking process or higher water content in the finished product,” Hald Pedersen adds, noting there are sensory challenges as high-protein biscuits can be very hard and have an “off taste”.

This is particularly true when using high-protein plant- and animal-derived flours, or isolate powders, explains Laura Sherwood, bakery technologist at Campden BRI. “Excessive browning can occur through enhanced protein, reducing sugar interaction from the Maillard reaction,” she says.

Nibs and crisps are one way of increasing the protein content of biscuits, and other items, without upsetting the integrity of a recipe. Grenade uses this method for its Carb Killa biscuits, with “a blend of different protein crispies to maximise biscuit crunch, taste and protein delivery. This, combined with the sugar-free chocolate, allows us to reduce the sugar,” says Grenade co-founder Juliet Barratt.

Meanwhile, Arla’s Nutrilac uses whey and milk proteins which Hald Pedersen says are recognised for their milky or neutral taste and a high level of essential amino acids.

For Fuel10k soy and wheat protein was chosen. “They have a number of benefits, especially with the emergence of dairy-free proteins linked with the increase of veganism and flexitarianism,” says Barney Mauleverer, Fuel10k co-founder.

Premium NPD from across the globe

Tim Tam gelato-inspired biscuits, Australia

Manufacturer Arnott’s partnered with premium brand Gelato Messina to create a trio of gelato-inspired biscuits under the Tim Tam brand. They’re available in three flavours – Iced Coffee, Choc Cherry Coconut and Turkish Delight – and are designed to be eaten straight out of the fridge, with colour-changing packaging so consumers know when they’re cold enough.

Sofit protein cookies, India

Protein is being used to position new offerings in the premium better-for-you segment in India. One example is the new Sofit  Protein Cookies, made by The Hershey Company. They are available in three variants – natural cocoa with flax seeds, mango with real almond bits, and raisins with flax seeds – which are said to provide a healthy source of energy, protein, omega-3, fibre and vitamins.

Trias botanical and plant-based biscuits, Spain

Trias tapped into on-trend botanical and plant-based ingredients with its Trias Choc range. Most notable are the Chocolate Matcha Biscuits, which are filled with white chocolate, matcha green tea
and ginger. The range also features Choc-Mojito, with dark chocolate, mint, lime and rum, as well as Choc Turmeric with dark chocolate, turmeric, salt and pepper.

Nature Valley nut butter cups, UK

Fusing an indulgent texture with healthy ingredients is one way to convey a premium biscuit. Nature Valley achieved this by mixing wholegrain oats with almond butter in its Nut Butter Almond Cups. They consist of crunchy biscuit cups filled with almond butter and almond pieces, with a chocolate flavour base. The NPD is also available in a Peanut Chocolate variant.

Biscuits tap vegan boom

Biscuits haven’t escaped the rise of veganism as it sweeps across the global food and drink scene.

While some insist butter is the only way to make a superb biccie, others are focusing on vegan-friendly ingredients for more inclusive ranges.

Earlier this year Livia’s, formerly Livia’s Kitchen, unveiled a range of vegan dipping cookies called Dunx. The cookies are available in three flavours – Caramel Almond Swirl, Peanut Butter & Jelly and Choco Hazel Crunch –  which contain three cookies and a pot of dipping sauce.

Meanwhile, Rhythm 108, which produces tea biscuits, snack bars and chocolate bars, took a different approach by overhauling its existing range to be 100% vegan. Animal ingredients were replaced with plant-based ones.

Burton’s boosts arsenal with Thomas Fudge’s acquisition

In February, Burton’s Biscuit Co announced the acquisition of Thomas Fudge’s – a move designed to help the business expand its presence in the premium biscuit market.

Isabel Lydall, category and insights controller at Burton’s, describes Thomas Fudge’s as
“a great business with a fantastic portfolio of premium products”, with florentines, flapjacks, wafers and flatbreads among the line-up.

With premium biscuits booming, buying the Dorset-based company from private equity firm Livingbridge could prove to be a smart move as Burton’s looks to build category value further. Particularly as its current portfolio, which includes Jammie Dodgers, Wagon Wheels and Maryland Cookies, sits firmly in the everyday biscuits segment.

“The Thomas Fudge’s bakery provides a hugely complementary production capability to Burton’s own bakeries, extending into the more premium and artisanal end of the category with its branded, retailer brand and Marmite products baked under licence,” says Lydall.

“The acquisition reinforces our continued commitment and investment to extend our capability and bring new and exciting products to market in both the sweet and savoury premium segments.”