Exclusive interview

Biscuits are capitalizing on the health trend, especially among seniors, says pladis

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The biscuit category changed in Britain in 2016 amid consumer demand for healthier indulgences, Steve Gladwell, CMI director of pladis tells BakeryandSnacks.

The British love their biscuits.

They consume around 9 kg of the baked snack annually.

Well, over 98% of them, according to pladis’ 2016 review on the biscuit scene in Britain.

This means around 571m kg of biscuits were sold in the UK in 2016, with a sales value of £2.65m ($3.40m) according to data from Nielsen and Kantar Worldpanel.

However, Steve Gladwell, CMI director of pladis, said consumer preferences to biscuits are changing.

A biscuit moment

“We’ve noted that, as you grow older, you tend to eat more biscuits. Which is good for us, as today, one in six people in the UK is over 65; a 26-fold increase in the past century,” said Gladwell.

By 2030, nearly a quarter of the UK’s population will comprise people over the age of 65, and this sector will grow at a faster rate than the working age population.

This group is 27% more likely to snack and 30% more likely to snack on biscuits, most likely driven by cravings although more likely to be planned as health drivers become more pronounced.

They also want nutritionally balanced and vitamin-, mineral-, protein- and fiber-enriched foods that are tailored to facilitate their changing lifestyles.

“Of all core snack food categories, Sweet Biscuits are consumed most frequently; almost 3.1 times per week on average,” said Gladwell, noting the McVitie’s Digestive range is, by far, the biggest biscuit brand in the UK, with retail sales amounting to £165m ($212m) last year.

The health crunch

Within this segment, Healthier Biscuits is the largest sub-category, appealing to consumers who have health and wellbeing top of mind.

“We’ve noted that, as you grow older, you tend to eat more biscuits. Which is good for us, as today, one in six people in the UK is over 65; a 26-fold increase in the past century.”

“More than half the population is looking for healthier options when grocery shopping, with 29% claiming they aim for healthy snacking,” said Gladwell.

However, he said there has been a slight shift in what people are going for.

Surprisingly, pladis found claims of “less sugar”, “low fat” and “no artificial flavors or colors” are actually on the decline, while, not surprisingly, “raw”, “contain fiber”, “high protein” and “natural” are on the rise (Nielsen).

“Healthier products obviously exist in other snack food categories, such as rice cakes and multigrain biscuits, but also crisps, popcorn, nuts, seeds and fruit offerings,” he added.

Taking the rise out of bread

Looking forward, Gladwell believes we are unlikely to see a significant increase in volume per capita of biscuits in the UK.

“What we will see is growth in average retail price and price per occasion. This will come from more portion packs, more impulse packs, more premiumization and more premium offerings,” he said.

“Biscuits are still great value, relevant at all time of the day – from a healthy breakfast option to a family indulgence on the sofa while watching TV after dinner. There are lots of different occasions that will be incremental for the biscuit category.

“We also believe that savory biscuits have a huge opportunity especially in area around the weakness of bread and crackers are taking up some of bread’s consumption. The baked area of savory, too, is playing very well against fried options like fried crisps.”

“We believe the healthier nature of crackers can grow against bread and crisps,” said Gladwell.

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