Magazine article Marketing

Crunch Time for Treats

Magazine article Marketing

Crunch Time for Treats

Article excerpt

A highly penetrated market combined with healthier snacking means that the sweet and savoury biscuit sector is facing a tough future.

The comfort derived from devouring a packet of favourite biscuits has continued to appeal to a nation nursing its recessionary woes and looking for cheap pleasures. Custard creams, bourbons, shortbread or digestive - no matter what the preference, a sweet-biscuit fix has not lost its appeal, even though the high sugar and fat content doesn't fit with the current healthy-eating agenda.

Between 2005 and 2010, the biscuits, cookies and crackers sector grew by 22% to reach an estimated pounds 2.2bn in 2010, according to Mintel. Nine in 10 consumers eat sweet biscuits, while almost seven in 10 buy crackers/savoury biscuits (Toluna research).

However, in 2010 trading was slower than in the previous two years and it appears that some brands have cut back on NPD and advertising spend.

Also, with such high penetration there is little room for manoeuvre in attracting more consumers, while health considerations mean frequency of purchase is unlikely to increase.

The sector faces competition from snacks such as confectionery, crisps, cereal bars, fruit and nuts. It has also been hit by the rise in home-baking, although a lack of time and the cost of home-baked biscuits means the impact on sales has been limited.

Sweet biscuits dominate the sector, accounting for 83% of the market and most of the growth has come from healthier (a 15.6% increase in sales between 2008 and 2010) and everyday treat biscuits segments.

Women, the over-35s and the D socio-economic group are the most ardent sweet-biscuit eaters, whereas it is women, the over-55s and those in the lowest socio economic group who are more likely to buy savoury biscuits.

The sector has benefited from some innovation. This has centred on introducing smaller formats and bite-sized portions, to satisfy both the snacking-on-the-go trend and consumers' desire to better control their food and calorie intake.

Brands benefit from a high degree of shopper loyalty: more than two-fifths tend to buy the same brand and a third think branded biscuits taste better, according to Toluna.

United Biscuits is the leading manufacturer in the category, with its McVitie's and Go Ahead! brands per-forming well. It also owns Jaffa Cakes and cracker brands Jacob's and Carr's. Burton's Foods, meanwhile, has been successful in taking confectionery brands into the biscuit market: Cadbury Crunchie, Caramel and Turkish Delight biscuits were launched in 2010, with Dairy Milk Biscuits and Bournville Biscuits added this year.

Stuart Wilson, chief marketing officer at Burton's Foods, said of the launch: 'These Cadbury biscuits have transformed what was otherwise a rather staid chocolate biscuits market into a destination aisle.'

In line with the smaller pack size trend, Burton's also brought out Mini Cadbury Fingers, Kraft launched Mini Oreos and Mini Ritz in 40g packets, while Fox's, owned by Northern Foods, introduced smaller formats for its Rocky, Viennese Melts and Party Rings brands.

On the savoury biscuit side, Ryvita has shifted toward a healthy rather than slimming position in recent years. Ryvita Crackers for Cheese, launched this year, are marketed as being low in fat and high in fibre. Meanwhile, United Biscuits has reformulated its Jacob's Light Cream Crackers to have 55% less saturated fat.

This innovation has clearly been to align the products with current eating trends and consumer needs, but will it be enough to ensure biscuits remain a part of British eating habits? …

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