The chocolate digestive was crowned Britain’s favourite biscuit at the end of last year, but it’s pretty ancient considering it was launched by McVitie’s over 90 years ago.
Brit’s consume on average 7kg of biscuits a year, so why the slow pace of innovation?
It’s something that puzzles Paul Rostand, co-founder of the Great British Biscotti Co. The group is preparing to launch four new biscotti flavours, which go on sale online this month and are designed to be quintessentially English with a contemporary twist.
Rostand tells Food Spark he has never found it hard to be creative with biscuit flavours.
“Being small makes it easier to think outside the box and try new ideas – something that the bigger corporations, to my amazement, never seem to do. They are stuck in their ways of just making small moves with slight variations to existing products, rather than taking bold steps and creating something completely new or a new category,” he says.
“Our savoury biscotti are a prime example, where we developed something completely new, which had never been done before – and people love them.
“There are so many ways to innovate with biscuits, as they are a way to convey flavour and texture. And so there are an enormous amount of opportunities still to be explored.”
Christmas cheer and creativity
The new range includes red onion marmalade and walnut, stilton and raisin, spiced apple and chocolate, and sour cherry and double chocolate.
So what inspired these options?
Marrying British cuisine, Christmas and also the desire to be known for bringing something new to the biscuit game, says Rostand.
“We set ourselves two objectives in this development. Firstly, to have some flavours that have a good Christmas association and that are different to just another mince pie or Christmas pudding flavour,” he says.
“Secondly, we want to build on our reputation of offering new, exciting, innovative flavours.”
The taste development wasn’t without trial and error; it took three recipe trials before landing on the final versions.
The new flavours also lend themselves to a number of eating occasions, according to Rostand.
“The savoury biscotti work brilliantly as a cheese biscuit, or with a charcuterie platter, or for croutons for soups or salads and for canape bases. Or they are a very enjoyable snack by themselves with a glass of wine,” he says.
“The sweet flavours are a great snack on their own or even served as an accompaniment to a dessert, either whole or crumbled on top to add texture to ice cream, as an example.”
Healthy snacking versus treats
But with the boom in healthy eating, where do biscuits fit in? Can companies innovate in this area when there is so much focus on sugar?
Rostand says for him biscotti is meant to be eaten in moderation and as a treat.
“We don’t buy into what’s happening in the market of trying to make treats healthy, so they can be eaten all the time,” he says.
“Why make a claim that my pot of ice cream can all be eaten when ice cream is meant to be a treat enjoyed once in a while?”
So is Sparkie bonkers for biscuit innovation?
Biscuits seem like a weird market. While there is definitely room for interesting innovation like this, it is difficult to immediately gauge how a consumer might react to it.
Biscuits from what I have seen have been a stagnant market, because people have very strong feelings for the old classics, so putting something new out there is quite a gamble compared to other areas of the supermarket.
My initial thoughts are it may drive a good few curiosity one-off sales as a novelty, but it will really depend on the product to get any sort of repeat purchase before people default to their favourites.
You never know until you try though – this might be one to watch, as if it is successful it could well open some very old flood gates.