Despite the ’war on sugar’, the biscuit category is holding up well thanks to the fact that sweet biscuits are universally popular, with nine out of 10 consumers eating them. Mintel research reveals that value sales have increased due to higher average prices and predicts that the sweet biscuit and cereal bars category will reach £2.5bn by 2022.

Chocolate biscuits are by far our favourite and it seems the more chocolatey the better as consumers seek thicker chocolate and more indulgent fillings and prefer to indulge in quality over quantity.

Julien Lacrampe, trade marketing manager at Bahlsen, explains: "Research shows that almost a third of shoppers now always opt for indulgent products when choosing a snack and nearly half (45%) believe high sugar snacks can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. When a consumer reaches for a biscuit it has to be a truly worthwhile moment, that’s also ’worth the calories’. The trend for looking for more indulgence when selecting a biscuit is evident in the performance of Choco Leibniz, which outperforms in the Special Treats category."

Last year Bahlsen upped the ante on special treats with the launch of Choco Moments, which Lacrampe describes as a "truly indulgent biscuit".

The two flavours Crunchy Hazelnut and Crunchy Mint have the thickest chocolate topping of any Bahlsen biscuit yet. This was in response to findings which revealed that 31% of consumers would be willing to pay more for a biscuit that has a thicker layer of chocolate and that 18% of consumers are interested in more sweet biscuits for desserts (Mintel).

Lacrampe reports that Choco Moments is performing well with 64% of its sales incremental to the sweet biscuit category, bringing new shoppers into the sector. And within the Special Treats segment, Choco Moments are attracting more young consumers, with 51% of them under the age of 44 (Nielsen).

While there’s no doubting the nation’s love of indulgent biscuits, Mintel’s research found that there was a keen interest in biscuits with naturally healthy ingredients, which would make them more of a permissible treat.

Mintel’s report on Sweet Biscuits and Snack Bars says: "Having a low-sugar content now stands out as the single most important factor consumers look for when seeking out healthy food, giving further impetus to sugar reduction. However, reformulations can be a risky business."

But Burton’s Biscuit Company believes it has got it right. Following its successful sugar reduction programme on core Maryland products and the introduction of fewer than 100 calorie packs across its Minis range in 2018, the company is now making the cookie brand even more accessible to consumers looking to reduce their sugar intake, with the launch of Maryland Sugar Free Cookies. The sugar has been replaced with Maltitol (a polyol), which is derived from Maltose, has half the calories of sugar, does not promote tooth decay and is already used extensively in the wider baking industry.

"Currently, far too many sugar-free options across many categories are regarded by consumers as boring and bland. With Maryland Sugar Free Cookies, we’re giving consumers the best of both worlds a great-tasting biscuit from one of Britain’s best loved biscuit brands, and a product that’s ideal for the growing number of shoppers looking for lower/no sugar alternatives," comments Kate Needham, marketing and insight director at Burton’s Biscuit Company.

Burton’s will be targeting Maryland Sugar Free Cookies as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon treat. "We’re looking to bring the warmth, fun and great taste traditionally associated with Maryland Cookies to what many consumers perceive to be an uninspiring sugar-free sector," adds Needham.

Packed with chocolate chips, Burton’s believes Maryland Sugar Free Cookies are the best-tasting sugar-free cookies available in the market and will be reinforcing this view through a social media and PR campaign.

"The highly targeted marketing campaign will communicate the message that the new Maryland Sugar Free alternative will allow biscuit lovers everywhere to enjoy a great-tasting, sugar free cookie while having fun and not having to compromise on taste," adds Needham.

"We’re striving to achieve a 20% sugar and calorie reduction across our portfolio, with a robust programme in place.

"Since 2016, through recipe optimisation, we’ve achieved a 20%-plus sugar reduction on Jammie Dodgers and in 2018 delivered a 5%-plus reduction on core Maryland and 10%-plus on Maryland Minis as part of a wide-ranging portion control initiative," she says.

Number one

Within Mondelz’s biscuit portfolio is Oreo, the world’s number one biscuit brand. Oreo’s growth has been sustained through continuous investment and innovation. For example, the brand launched Oreo Thins in 2017, to attract a different consumer by offering a differentiated experience to meet their needs, while keeping true to the brand’s essence and in June 2018 the brand brought a new flavour to the range with the launch of Oreo Coconut Thins, which has already seen great success. The Oreo brand is currently supported by an on-pack promotion giving consumers the chance to win prizes of up to £1,000.

In partnership with Snapchat, consumers simply use the app to scan the Snapcode on special Oreo packs. From there they will be invited to complete an online game to be in with a chance of winning one of thousands of prizes. There are 10 top prizes of £1,000, as well as 200 limited- edition Oreo hoodies, 400 Oreo t-shirts, 1,500 enamel pin badges and 1,500 free pack coupons.

Last summer, Mondelez added Joyfills to its range which has two Oreo and two Cadbury Chocolate variants. Joyfills is a bag of bite-sized, cream-filled biscuits that weigh no more than a gram each. The company says the range offers something different as it is unlike anything else on the market.

Mondelz also has the UK’s number one healthy biscuit within its portfolio, BelVita Breakfast, which is the only breakfast biscuit with proven slow-release carbohydrates.

With one of the highest repeat rates in the entire biscuits category at 60% (Kantar), BelVita has continued to lead the wellbeing biscuits and breakfast biscuits segment through continued investment in new products and large-scale marketing campaigns.

Meanwhile, oatcakes brand Nairn’s is launching two new snack products. It describes Pop Oats as the first-ever, gluten-free popped oat snack, while its new Oat Bar range has 40% less sugar than the average fruit/cereal bar.

Nairn’s Pop Oats aim to compete with other popular popped snacks from a taste and texture perspective, with the added health benefits of being made from gluten-free wholegrain oats. At only 83 calories per pack, they are a source of fibre and have 60% less fat than regular crisps.

The new Nairn’s Oat Bar is a gluten free flapjack-style bar containing 40% less sugar than the average fruit/cereal bar (compared to a reference set of over 150 other branded bars). The range is high in fibre and rich in vitamins and minerals, and all three bars are suitable for vegans.

Martyn Gray, managing director at Nairn’s comments: "Demand for free-from products has never been higher, and research shows growth from younger shoppers who are looking for convenient and healthy snacking options to consume on the go, which don’t compromise on taste. As oats and health have always been at the heart of everything Nairn’s does, we don’t have to add extra sugar or fat to make our gluten-free products taste great and that’s central to our overall brand philosophy of simple, natural and wholesome. Both new product ranges have performed well in consumer research and we are confident that they will bring something new to the gluten-free category."

Pop Oats are available in three flavours: Salt & Vinegar, BBQ and Sour Cream & Chive, (20g, rrp 80p) and the Oat Bars are available in three flavours: Apple & Cinnamon, Cacao & Orange and Mixed Seeds & Protein, rrp 89p. They are also available in multipacks of four, rrp £2.49.

Finally, Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Mondelz, reminds retailers that biscuits divide into on-the-go offers that include single portion packs, and top-up offers that include multiple serving packs.

"In store, we recommend that the top-up range be merchandised to help the shopper make a quick decision, by making it easy for them to scan the offering and find what they’re looking for. The key merchandising principles are:

Group by product type;

Block by brand;

Group by pack size;

Stock your best sellers on the best shelves;

Align space to share of sales.

"Segmenting the range in sub categories can really help the consumer scan the range. Mondelz provides shelf strips and pos to help grab shoppers’ attention. These can be downloaded or ordered from"

For on-the-go biscuits, Nash recommends having a range near other on-the-go offers, ideally in a highly visible area. She says for BelVita’s ’Have you had your breakfast’ campaign, down-loadable posters and a pos unit, which attaches to coffee machines, are available to help make the most of the opportunity.

Carb Killa in a biscuit

Following the huge success of its Carb Killa range of high protein, low-sugar shakes, bars, spreads and brownies, Grenade has expanded its product portfolio with the launch of the Carb Killa Biscuit.
It is described as "a chocolate coated biscuit, laden with delicious crispy pieces to give it an irresistible crunch". Available as a two pack, in either Double Chocolate or Salted Caramel flavour, each biscuit contains 109 calories and 6g of high-quality protein, with only 0.8g of sugar.
"We are so excited to be launching the Carb Killa Biscuit," says co-founder and CMO of Grenade, Juliet Barratt. "We’re hoping that this new addition will excite current Grenade fans and reach out to an ever-growing demographic of customers looking for something healthy and nutritious but different."
Founded in 2010 with an initial focus on high- performance sports nutrition products, Grenade has become the number one best-selling brand in active nutrition and healthy snacking. Carb Killa bars outsell competitors by 45%, selling over 70 million units (IRI data).

new products

The latest on-pack promotion from Oreo is giving consumers the chance to win prizes of up to £1,000 through a new partnership with Snapchat.
Pladis has launched three new cakes: McVitie’s Moments White Choc & Raspberry Crunch; McVitie’s Club Honeycomb Cake Crunchies; and McVitie’s Hobnobs Peanut Butter Fudge Flapjacks. Rrps are £1.65 to £1.70.
New from go ahead! are Nutty Crunch, a baked bar with a vanilla drizzle, available in Peanut and Hazelnut variants; and Fruit & Nut Breaks, cereal bars made with real fruit and nut pieces in Apricot & Hazelnut and Almond, Coconut & Chia Seed variants.
Premier Foods says its twin-pack formats of Mr Kipling and Cadbury Cakes provide a point of difference and are ideal to meet consumer demand for a quick top-up snack. The range includes Mr Kipling twin-pack slices and Cherry Bakewells, and Cadbury Mini Rolls.
Bahlsen is back on TV with a heavyweight national campaign showcasing two ads focused on Choco Moments and Choco Leibniz. The ads are airing across a number of major TV channels as part of a £1.5m investment. They use the strapline: ’It’s not just a biscuit. It’s a Bahlsen’.

Soreen’s healthy credentials

Soreen’s convenient, individually wrapped Lunchbox Loaves have proved popular, primarily due to their health credentials. Malt Lunchbox Loaves contain half the sugar (57% less) and 85% less fat than the average cake bar.
Bethan Brown, marketing director at Soreen, says: "Our Lunchbox Loaves have grown by over 25% every year since their launch, mainly because they are a healthy lunch-time accompaniment, as well as a nutritious snack for after school, making them a family favourite.
"The uniqueness of Soreen is that it retains an enjoyable treat-like taste and squidgy texture without being high in sugar. Soreen Malt Lunchbox Loaves (available in a multipack of five) contain only 91kcals per 30g portion and only 5.1g of sugar."
Last year Soreen celebrated its 80th birthday and to mark the occasion launched a new Strawberry flavour. Strawberry is the fourth addition in the Lunchbox Loaves range, which includes Apple, Banana and Traditional Malt.
Malt Loaf Bars are another recent addition to the range, catering for the on-the-go market. Brown says Malt Loaf is popular with endurance sports enthusiasts because it’s a complex carbohydrate that provides two-thirds slow release and a third quick release energy. Malt is also a rich source of B vitamins and amino acids and a natural source of energy.
Over the years Soreen has had a strong affiliation with cycling and was the official supplier to the Tour de Yorkshire last year. It also sponsored the Tour of Britain for the 10th year running. And Soreen had a presence at the London Marathon and Manchester Run.