What’s next in biscuits?

By Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe

- Last updated on GMT

Biscuits are big business and a favourite consumer snack choice. Pic:getty/gingagi
Biscuits are big business and a favourite consumer snack choice. Pic:getty/gingagi

Related tags Biscuits plant-based Sustainability Protein functional benefits

Exciting trends to watch emerge as the much-loved treats evolve to match environmental and health-led consumer demands.

Biscuit varieties are as diverse as they are recognizable in the confectionery treat market. From plain biscuits, sandwich cookies and sweet-filled biscuits to savoury crackers and specialty biscuits, biscuits are big business and a favorite consumer snack choice.

The global cookies and crackers market is valued at $140.40bn in 2024, according to Statista. Most biscuit-based revenue comes from China, accounting for $22,510m. Asia is full of pockets of innovation, with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines leading biscuit innovations. Further afield, the US and the UK are also big drivers of the biscuit business.

Biscuits show no signs of slowing down either, with the segment’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR) estimated at 6.39% from 2024 to 2028.

"Volume sales of sweet biscuits proved resilient in 2023. Seasonal biscuits, single-serve packs and biscuits that hero healthy ingredients offer scope to grow sales,” said Richard Caines, principal analyst, UK Food & Drink Research at Mintel.

Stand-out ingredients, health consciousness, protecting nature and local specialities going global drive consumer demands and inspire manufacturers’ launches.

“Health and the environment take centre stage,” Valia Christidou, founder of The Food Launchpad and creator of the Blog It's Only Biscuits, told Bakery&Snacks.

“Simple ingredients, sugar reduction and the use of no palm oil are growing."

Here, we look at the leading global trends shaping the biscuit space in 2024.

Plant-based eyes up new sources

Plant-based is now mainstream, but as it risks reaching a plateau, brands are building other alternative proteins, including cultivated proteins, biomass or precision fermentation, molecular farming and growing protein in plants.

“Plant-based products continue to grow, but we are moving towards delivering them without overprocessing them,” saod Christidou.

“There is a lot of focus on pulses and legumes, as they tick both the nutritional and planet-friendly boxes." 

As awareness of gut health grows, traditional fermented foods such as kimchi and kefir are becoming more popular, too.

Exploring the future of biscuits, cookies and crackers, market intelligence provider Mintel's 2024 insights signal plant-based and vegan claims are growing in Europe and Latin America. Better-for-you qualities are also proving popular in Latin America. Brands highlight their clean label claims, natural or organic conversions, fair trade messages, and non-genetically modified organizm (NGO) content. 

Sustainable stances and eco-friendly awareness are driving manufacturers to adopt circular approaches. Claims associated with regenerative agriculture saw impressive year-on-year growth of 383% between 2022 and 2023. Carbon-related claims on bakery products have grown significantly too, by 48%.

“Regenerative agriculture is also, hopefully, here to stay, with some ingredient companies active in this area,” said Christidou. Wilfarmed is one such company in the UK making regenerative wheat flour.

“Declaring food’s environmental footprint on the pack is being discussed and some trials have been conducted in recent years, so this is an area to watch,” she said.

Recent EU legislation changes will tighten the requirements for proof that an ingredient has not contributed to deforestation, she added.

Flavor explosions

Consumers are seeking more indulgent flavors. Seasonal or limited edition biscuits lead to over half of sweet biscuit buyers making additional purchases. Findings suggest consumers seek a sense of 'safe adventure', highlighting the value of limited edition varieties for brands to enhance consumer engagement. The temporary availability of these products creates a sense of urgency, likely contributing to the increase in impulse purchases.

Cookies and crackers will borrow textures, shapes, sensations and formats from other dessert and bakery categories. New combinations and pairings will seek to deliver fun and novelty with indulgent offerings.

“Snacks in the chiller can offer new textures and flavours and, in some cases, have fewer additives,” said Christidou.

One-to-watch, this trend also encourages non-traditional food players in the biscuit market to enter.

Ingredients taking the spotlight is one bakery trend taking biscuits by storm, according to Innova Market Insights' 2024 annual trends forecast.

Under this, biscuit brands are leveraging consumers’ positive perceptions of specific ingredients by highlighting a product’s key component.

“Vietnamese, Japanese and Korean are growing on the cuisine and flavour front,” said Christidou.

Health formulations

Manufacturers are meeting the increasing need for healthier and functional biscuits by providing options with reduced sugar content, whole grains, natural ingredients and added nutritional value.

In 2024, industry representative FoodDrinkEurope shared it has helped develop reformulation guidelines for SMEs to consider reformulating healthier and more nutritious products. Additionally, it has developed toolkits on portion size, whole grains and fiber to inform food and drink manufacturers, public authorities and health bodies.

According to Innova’s bakery trends research, over one-third of consumers consider themselves proactive in preventing health issues. Bakery product claims such as 'grain fiber aids in weight management' and 'improves bone health' are designed to address consumers’ primary claims, which include physical health, weight management, heart health, and bone and joint health.

Over the past year, the consumption of savoury biscuits or crackers with active health claims has increased by 52%. Almost half (46%) of US adults are actively trying to reduce or limit their sugar intake. In response to this demand, bakery brands introduce new recipes and emphasize their low-sugar offerings. Additionally, more than one in five customers worldwide opt for healthier alternatives to savoury snacks.

Ultra-processed foods (UPFs) have recently come under the radar, potentially shaping consumers’ biscuit choices. A Mintel study found that more than two-thirds of sweet biscuit consumers in the UK would opt for sweet biscuits made with less processed ingredients.

According to data from Innova, in 2022, approximately 20% of new bakery products in the US were gluten-free, with 29% of savory crackers carrying a gluten-free label. As consumers increasingly link gluten-free products with health, more food producers are exploring alternative flours to wheat that offer good functionality and sensory attributes.

Scientists have found that manufacturers can improve biscuits’ nutritional and health benefits by replacing wheat flour with sprouted pseudocereal grains​such as sprouted cañihua kiwi-cha and quinoa. Almond flour is gaining popularity, featuring in 16% of new gluten-free bakery products in 2022. Additionally, coconut flour is featured in 9% of these launches. We can anticipate an increase in pulse flours such as chickpeas and healthy grains like buckwheat and oats.

Today’s health-focused brands are venturing into indulgent treats, combining comfort with added nutritional benefits. Findings from Innova reveal indulgent bakery products with active health claims have increased by 14% in the past five years. The most rapidly growing health claims for indulgent bakery products include prebiotics, immune health, probiotics, and added calcium.

Instead of strict limitations, shoppers favour products that promote balance. According to Mintel, almost two-thirds (64%) of Italian cookie consumers believe it’s acceptable to enjoy a small portion of sweet biscuits daily as part of a well-rounded diet.

“Balance is key for categories that span healthy and indulgent products. In the future, brands can pursue health or indulgence, but they don’t need to do both at the same time,” said Stephanie Mattucci, director of Food & Drink/Purchase Intelligence at Mintel.

Beyond protein to functional content

With consumers prioritizing preventative health measures, protein content in biscuits has become increasingly crucial for consumers globally. Over 20% prefer to source their protein from bakery products. Their interest in protein extends beyond muscle growth, as highlighted by Innova’s research, which indicates consumers seek protein for energy, stamina and weight management purposes.

Startups and scientists are turning to smart plants through protein factories that use molecular farming techniques. Some are using gene-editing technologies to enhance biscuit profiles, such as boosting flavor and the traditional content of crops or reducing undesirable characteristics.

“I see more ways to consume nuts and fruit in the UK and the US,” Christidou said.

For example, snack biscuits made with nut flour in the US are gaining attention.

While products are still being launched with protein as their central message, Christiodou suspects early signs may indicate a decline.

“There is not as much activity as a few years ago so the message may be plant rather than protein."

However, consumers are becoming more open to adopting specialised functional ingredients such as probiotics and collagen, and nearly half are open to integrating these components into their diets.

Local specialities reach a global audience

More than 50% of consumers actively seek claims of locally sourced ingredients, reveals Innova. With the majority of global consumers open to experimenting with new cuisines, brands are ramping up the production of region-based products and launching them worldwide.

In 2023, exports in the 'various food products' category - of which biscuits belong - amounted to €41.4bn, according to FoodDrinkEurope. The bakery segment has one of the highest growths in exports.

Taking local flavors and bringing them to a global audience is highly-appealing to today’s biscuit consumers. For instance, brands are creating desi-inspired offerings based on traditional Indian flavourings and delivering them to international markets. There was a 13% CAGR increase in African flavour-profiled products and a 5% increase in East Asian products, for example, between 2020 and 2023. Social media plays a significant part in sharing global cuisines with younger consumers.

Biscuit popularity is on the rise due to increasing urbanization. Urban consumers, who prefer ready-to-eat snacks, drive the high biscuit demand. Manufacturers are responding to this trend by capitalizing on the traditional appeal of biscuits, taking local favourites worldwide and introducing new flavors, textures and formats to meet changing consumer preferences.

Amid the growing presence of industrial bakeries, there is also a renewed interest in artisanal craftsmanship. Consumers increasingly seek handcrafted, small-batch baked goods that are authentic and high quality. 

Related topics Business

Related news

Follow us


View more