Dipping into biscuits: what is influencing consumer buying habits in this category?

Pladis, which owns brands like McVitie’s and Godiva, has released a report that looks at the trends driving the snacking market.

21 May 2019
image credit: Getty Images

A bite of the biscuit market

  • On average, Brits consume core snack foods like biscuits 5.2 times a week – this is more than fruit (4.9 times) and chilled juice (3.5 times).
  • Biscuit sales in the UK hit just over £2.6bn in retail last year, bought by 99.1% of all households.
  • Sweet biscuits are the largest part of the category with sales of £2.1bn, compared to savoury biscuits with sales of £477m.
  • 2018 saw continued market growth at 1.2%, though this was at a slower rate than the 2.6% growth in 2017. The slowdown was driven primarily by the warm weather and reduction in promotional activity by many of the major retailers, but also mergers and stiff competition between the supermarket chains, according to Pladis.
  • Innovation is important for the category, with new flavours and formats generating sales of over £41m last year.
  • Small sells: 40% of sales came from mini versions of established normal-sized products.
  • Online biscuit sales have slowed from last year and are now responsible for 7.1% of sales.

A healthy influence

  • Sweet biscuits grew 1% in 2018, yet savoury did better at 2%, helped by the rise of rice cakes and a revival in crispbreads – both are seen as healthier options.
  • In fact, healthier biscuits were the largest and fastest-growing sector, overtaking categories such as everyday biscuits at 4.5%.
  • In particular, healthier sweet biscuits have seen a growing number of ‘on trend’ brands entering the market and driving growth. Nature Valley grew by £5m and became the fourth largest product in the sector.
  • Healthier biscuits are the most likely to be eaten on the move, with 19% of servings munched out and about.
  • Excluding novelty biscuits, healthier biscuits also attract the youngest sector, with an average consumer age of 39.
  • People more likely to eat healthily in the mornings: 62% of healthier biscuits are nibbled before lunch

Not so sweet

  • Savoury biscuits are most likely to be chosen as an easy-to-prepare snack, accounting for over a quarter of convenient servings.
  • More than a third of savoury biscuits are eaten at the weekend.
  • Crackers and crispbreads account for over half of all biscuits eaten alongside alcohol.

Treat yourself

  • The market witnessed growth in indulgent products as seen in the growth of the special treats sector (1.6%).
  • People are most likely to eat special treats for relaxation time, accounting for a laidback 17% of all consumption.
  • Special treats are also most likely to be eaten alongside premium coffee, making up 7% of all occasions.
  • 54% of novelty biscuits are munched by adults.
  • Christmas biscuits were up 1.3% in 2018 at £207m. These biscuits are the most likely category to be eaten when guests are present, making up a generous 5.1% of occasions. Christmas biscuits are also seen as a treat, with 47% of servings offering a little bit of indulgence.
  • Chocolate biscuit bars are most likely to be packed as part of a lunchbox, making up 16% of occasions.

The brands and supermarkets

  • Penguin is the biggest biscuit brand carried out for lunch, forming a big part of the 10.8% of core snack foods eaten out the home.
  • McVitie’s continues to lead the market as the biggest brand. Last year saw sales of £353m and a market share of 16.4%, followed by Fox’s with sales of £94m and a share of 4.4%.
  • Aldi and Lidl lead the way in own-label sales growth with an 8.6% and 12.6% increase respectively in the last year, though Tesco remains the largest retailer brand in biscuits – a 6.4% share earned them £168m last year.
  • The top three biscuit products in 2018 were the Kit Kat (£83m’s worth of product sold), McVitie’s Choc Digestive (£60m) and Belvita Breakfast Biscuits(£46m).

General snacking trends

  • £500 is spent on snack foods every second in the UK.
  • 90% of consumers snack multiple times a day, while 7% completely forego meals and just snack.
  • When it comes to snacking, over a quarter of people reach for chocolate confectionary, a fifth opt for sweet biscuits and 19% choose crisps.
  • Pladis identified five key drivers of snack consumption for British consumers: balance, sustain, indulgence, discovery and togetherness.

When it comes to balance:

  • 39% of consumers look for healthy products all or most of the time when choosing a snack.
  • 41% of consumers say it’s hard to know which snacks are good for you, but 32% actively avoid buying processed ones.
  • 63% of consumers would rather eat a naturally healthy snack than a light version of a less healthy snack.
  • 47% of mothers feel that their family has too much sugar in its diet.

Sustain is driven by:

  • 50% of consumers working full time say their busy lifestyles make snacking a necessity.
  • 64% of consumers feel snacks are important to keep energy levels up throughout the day.
  • 37% of consumers will snack instead of having a proper meal at least once a week.
  • 57% among 16 to 24-year-olds and 58% among parents of under-fives will use snacks to forgo meals.

Discovery for consumers means:

  • 53% of consumers say they are prompted to buy when they see new flavours in shops.
  • 25% of UK consumers would be interested in snacks with flavours inspired by authentic street food.
  • 58% of consumers like to eat new things and 37% like looking for new snacks when shopping.

Those looking for indulgence want:

  • 52% of consumers think that taste is more important than healthiness.
  • 66% of UK consumers think unhealthy snacks are fine as part of a balanced diet.
  • 38% of UK chocolate eaters believe the emotional benefits of chocolate outweigh any health concerns.

Togetherness – snacking isn’t about eating alone, according to the following stats:

  • 37% of snacks in the UK are consumed with someone else – friends, family, colleagues etc.
  • 25% of shoppers purchase snacks for the family to make them happy.
  • 58% of 16 to 34-year-olds and 52% of parents believe snacks are a must-have for an evening in.
  • 71% of people say watching TV in the living room with others is something they enjoy.

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