British people remain in love with biscuits. The category has a whopping UK household penetration of 99.3%.
McVitie’s leads the category, helping drive the sector’s growth.
David Titman, Marketing Director – McVitie’s, tells Wholesale Manager about the brand’s NPD and marketing activity.
How much is the biscuit category worth and what is the household penetration of biscuits?
Biscuits are a big deal in grocery. Not only do practically all British households buy them (99.3%1), but category sales have now broken through the £3bn barrier2. Within this, Sweet Biscuits dominate and are worth £2.5bn3.
As the UK’s favourite biscuit brand, McVitie’s has a key role in overall category performance. And, with four in five households (81%4) regularly buying biscuit tin favourites like McVitie’s Chocolate Digestives and trying game-changing new formats like McVitie’s Jaffa Jonuts, the brand is now worth £421 million5.
Is the category in growth?
The category is currently up +1.6% year-on-year6. But it’s important to take this with a pinch of salt, given the exceptional circumstances of 2020, which resulted in a bumper year for biscuits – one of the biggest on record.
Comparing category sales data to 2019 paints a much more realistic picture and, in this, we can see McVitie’s is continuing to propel category growth. In 2021, 22.9 million households bought McVitie’s biscuits, with shoppers spending +11.7% more on McVitie’s than they did pre-Covid7. This added £49.7 million worth of sales to the Sweet Biscuits category8.
What is driving the growth?
Classic biscuit barrel favourites and genuine innovation. This means wholesalers should ensure they’re stocking the best-performing biscuits that will help their retail partners sell-through, plus a selection of the latest innovation to keep shoppers engaged with this vast category.
What are your key brands that wholesalers should be stocking? How much are these brands worth?
McVitie’s Chocolate Digestives (£93 million RSV in 2021)9 are the nation’s favourite biscuits, while our other bestsellers include store-cupboard staples, from McVitie’s Chocolate Hobnobs (up 33% last year vs. 201910, worth £30 million11) and McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes (£48 million12), to McVities Digestives (£47 million13) and McVitie’s Rich Tea (£31 million).
Overall, McVitie’s brands represent six of the top 10 biscuit products in the convenience channel14, showing just how popular McVitie’s continues to be with the British public.
What consumer trends are currently influencing the biscuit market?
During the height of Covid-19, shoppers chose trusted, heritage brands like the biscuits in our McVitie’s portfolio. The connections with brands people re-established during this time are continuing to impact their choices now – and that’s great news for the brands like ours.
Another key trend for the category is choice. Whether healthier or more indulgent, made for sharing or made for one, shoppers are on the lookout for biscuits which complement all manner of needs states and occasions. While traditional eating occasions, like biscuits with a cuppa, aren’t going anywhere; there’s increased appetite for formats like sharing bags which better suit evening snacking.
Would you agree that if consumers have less disposable income in the current financial climate, they will spend more on affordable treats like biscuits?
As biscuits are a shopping trolley essential for nearly every household, we tend to find these small treats remain important even as financial pressures mount. The current cost of living squeeze is impacting everyone differently, but we may see some households swap time out of the house with evenings at home – and this could provide a boost for several snacking categories, including biscuits.
How will the new HFSS regulations affect the biscuit market?
While many shoppers have always made their way to the biscuit aisle in search of a special treat, health has become an important consideration across all grocery categories. Now, it’s all about offering people choice – and our latest McVitie’s Rich Tea Delights innovation which, at 38 calories per biscuit, retains the same signature taste, is case in point.
As category leader, we understand our role when it comes to helping consumers enjoy healthier lifestyles. This launch will show shoppers they don’t need to forego the biscuit aisle entirely when they’re seeking lower-calorie snacking options.
Do you have any NPD to talk about?
While it’s often our long-established products that keep shoppers coming back to fixture, there’s an important place for demand-driven NPD. New biscuits, particularly those suited to sharing like McVitie’s Blissfuls (already worth more than £3 million15) can help liven up retailers’ aisles and encourage shoppers to try something new through an impulse purchase. In fact, NPD from McVitie’s was worth more than £11 million in 202116.
McVitie’s Jaffa Jonuts should be on every wholesaler’s radar. This innovation enabled us to harness the roaring popularity of McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes with a totally new concept – and our single serve, eat now packs are taking the convenience channel by storm.
What marketing activity do you have to support your ranges?
This year we were headline sponsor of Britain’s Got Talent, and our supporting Golden Moments campaign was our biggest to date. Along with spotlights on our most iconic products during every ad break, we simultaneously ran PR, digital, social media and sampling – and even gave our packaging a BGT makeover.
We’ve got plenty more planned to support our brands over the coming months – so watch this space!
How can wholesalers maximise biscuit sales?
In the convenience channel, almost 80% of biscuit sales come from just 7% of products17, so the choices retailers make in depot can really make or break their fixture. Wholesalers should help retailers make the savviest choices by clearly communicating the bestselling biscuit lines, then ensuring they’re available and easy to find. This means dedicating plenty of space to products like McVitie’s Digestives and topping up regularly.
McVitie’s has such identifiable branding that it can also be used at the end of aisle to point retailers to the biscuit fixture and help make the shopping experience as seamless as possible.
How do you work with wholesalers to help them grow sales?
We work closely with our wholesale customers, providing regular ranging and merchandising advice to ensure they’re up to date with the latest trends.
Plus, to help wholesalers drive strong sales growth, we’re continuing to expand our ranges not only via exciting innovation, but also by tailoring pack formats to support retailers across all channels. This includes making our core range of bestselling biscuits available in PMPs, as well as launching some of our most popular products in the convenience channel in this format.