According to Pladis, the biscuit category is currently the second largest snackfood in the UK, outperforming crisps, cakes and popcorn.
Britons love biscuits, with 99% purchasing and eating them on average three times a week and on nearly six billion occasions in 2016.
The company’s report, Biscuits in Britain 2016: A Year of Change, undertaken in collaboration with Kantar, looks at the state of the £2.4bn ($2.99bn) UK biscuit category and examines the social trends influencing the way the market evolves.
Helen Cowie, dietician and head of Regulatory Affairs - UK, Ireland, Europe, Sub Sahara Africa, Pladis, noted health and nutrition continue to be topical.
Aligned with Public Health England’s recently published sugar reduction report, Cowie said Pladis is confident it will reach the sugar reduction target for biscuits by 2020.
Public Health England's guidance for biscuits
“We’re constantly experimenting with new recipes for our products to get the formula right before launching them onto the market, by reducing sugar and salt, but still retaining great taste and keeping within the costs,” said Cowie.
“Consumers have the right to make informed decisions, so Pladis is being completely transparent with its nutrition labels.”
The great British biscuit shortage
The biscuit category faced a number of challenges last year, said James Thomas, head of category development, UK & Ireland, Pladis.
He said ‘The Great British Biscuit Shortage’ had lasting effects across the year.
The company’s Carlisle factory was washed away by flooding caused by Storm Desmond in December 2015, rendering it impossible to produce the 80,000 tons of biscuits manufactured at the site annually.
“This stopped the production of Everyday Biscuits, regularly purchased by 85% of UK households, for four months,” he said.
The flood contributed to roughly 60% of the decline in sales in biscuits such as Bourbons, Custard Creams and Ginger Nuts.
Thomas also noted the segment felt pressure from the changing promotional landscape, with retailer promotional strategies shifting from multibuy deals to single price points, thus driving less volume, while a macro deflationary environment meant any growth coming through in biscuits was negated.
Despite this, Pladis maintained its position as the UK’s leading biscuit manufacturer with more than 22% market share, driven by the McVitie's brand, which realized sales of more than £343m ($428m), he said.
Pladis, owned by Yildiz Holding, also has a footprint in 120 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Americas, with annual revenues of $5.2bn.
The Digestives Nibbles line will be rolled out across the UK in an on-the-go format. McVitie’s Caramel and Milk Chocolate nibbles will be available in 37g packs, retailing for 59p (74c) from leading retailers, convenience stores and forecourts from May.
According to the company, the launch of McVitie’s Digestives Nibbles last year was the biggest sweet biscuit launch in the past decade and has already seen in excess of $10m in sales.
This was complemented by the launch of Jacobs Ciabatta, retaining the company’s lead in the UK savory biscuit segment, with a 25.8% share.
“Biscuits play an important role within snacking and are well-placed to respond to evolving category drivers,” said Thomas. “Nielsen has reported latest 12we category performance is up by 2%.”
Thomas noted there are two exciting launches planned for later this year.
Jon Eggleton, MD, UK & Ireland, also said that 2017 will be quite a momentous year.
“It’s the 125th anniversary of the digestive biscuit,” said Eggleton. The original digestive was produced in 1892 by Alexander Grant and his recipe is still used today.
Pladis has developed a non-branded kit that will enable children to know what a healthy diet looks like. According to Cowie, kids will have fun while learning about topics like ‘what am I eating?’ and ‘why do I have to cut down fat?’
“This will give children a better understanding about food, which will help the generations of the future overcome obesity,” she said.