Consumers are spurning basic biscuits for premium varieties, according to new research.

The trend for American-style cookies has caused sales of old favourites, such as Rich Tea and Custard Creams, to fall by 4.5% in the last year, says market researcher Nielsen, while Italian biscotti, Viennese Whirls and cookie sales have risen by 20%.

This follows a new poll by Marks & Spencer which found that shortbread was the country’s favourite biscuit and supports recent Kantar Worldpanel data showing that packaged and in-store cookies were up 15.6% in value and 22.8% in pack sales in the year to June.

The trend for premium biscuits is borne out by the success of upmarket companies such as Biscuiteers, a premium online biscuit retailer which sells 1,000 boxes of 16 hand-iced biscuits worth £36, a month. Said founder Harriet Hastings: "People are always prepared to pay for beautifully made premium products, especially as a gift."

Frances Kitson, Fox’s category activation manager, reported that ’grown-up indulgence’ lines were performing well, up 20% (Nielsen, 12 w/e 7 August). "The biscuit barrel category is seeing a decline (-1%) over the latest 12 weeks, driven predominantly by own-label. Premium lines in supermarkets are benefiting from shoppers shifting towards indulging themselves at home."

However, a McVitie’s spokeswoman said: "Latest Nielsen data reveals that sales of McVitie’s core range of everyday biscuits are now worth £237.5m and are growing by 5.7% in value terms."

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