Over the course of the past 12 months, consumers have ramped up their desire for treats.

From cakes to biscuits, shoppers are looking for products to enjoy on their own or with their loved ones during an unusual and challenging time.

As such, ambient cake has proved particularly popular, with sales remaining strong throughout 2020.

This has been driven largely by branded products which suit every-day, seasonal and treat occasions. In turn, the category has seen a big boost in retail sales, with it now worth upwards of £1bn (Kantar).

Courtney Lewis, Channel Director at Premier Foods, comments: “When it comes to where people are shopping for cake, online has been the big winner of the past year. Consumers are turning away from supermarkets in favour of home deliveries, with online sales surging.”

Delivery allows customers to increase their basket size, and as more and more c-stores offer delivery to their customers, retailers are better placed than ever to benefit from this trend. Indeed, sales in the channel have grown +41% year on year (Kantar).

“With shoppers spending more than usual in the channel, retailers can take advantage by expanding their offerings in popular categories like cake,” adds Lewis. “By presenting consumers with more choice, retailers are better able to cater for different occasions. This is something that also appeals to traditional convenience shoppers, who are continuing to purchase ‘little and often’, making them more inclined to pick up cake as an impulse purchase.”

Although celebrations in 2020 were on a smaller scale, seasonal occasions continue to be popular with shoppers. With many of us unable to celebrate as we normally would, consumers are wanting to treat themselves more than ever. Both Mr Kipling and Cadbury ranges cater for key celebrations such as Easter and Christmas.

“With uncertainty around what celebrations will look like through 2021, we expect seasonal cakes to continue to drive growth,” says Lewis. “Regardless of how the guidance may change, shoppers will be looking at ways to mark the moment by treating themselves and their loved ones. So, it is important for retailers to take an agile approach and offer shoppers the products they need to enhance their celebration.”

As cakes and sweet treats from different formats can suit these needs perfectly, Premier Foods has launched seasonal ranges from Mr Kipling and Cadbury for Easter 2021. The Cadbury range, the number one Easter Cake brand in the UK (Kantar), is being extended with the launch of Crème Egg Easter cakes. The new Crème Egg Cakes target individual indulgence, appealing to shoppers looking to treat themselves over Easter, while the addition of the new Crème Egg Chocolate Gateau caters to the at-home sharing occasions that are popular at Easter.

Meanwhile, Premier Foods is adding two new products to the Mr Kipling Easter line up, with Lemon & Raspberry Mini Batts and Chocolate & Orange Easter Bunny Slices.

The Lemon & Raspberry Mini Batts aim to drive excitement with a twist on a traditional cake format, particularly appealing to older shoppers as a special sweet treat at an affordable price. Each range will also see shoppers’ seasonal favourites return, including Egg Fancies, Lemon Bakewells and Hot Cross Slices, to offer a variety of flavours and formats.

“The past year has seen significant changes to shopper habits, with many turning to their nearest convenience store to avoid larger supermarkets and spend as little time in store as possible due to health concerns,” continues Lewis. “Shoppers are therefore more likely to look towards every day impulse products, something c-stores can benefit from with ‘little and often’ customers.”

Whilst Bites & Nibbles have seen a decline, due in part to fewer people gathering for social celebrations, demand has increased on formats that suit snacking moments at home. This has been reflected in the success of shopper favourites like Cadbury Mini Rolls, which are up +11.9% – as well as small sharing and dessert occasions to reflect people’s changing routines.

“When looking beyond the immediate impact of the pandemic on the category, it remains very challenging to predict exactly what is going to happen,” adds Lewis. “However, when considering what happened to the category during the last major recession seen by the UK in between 2008 and 2010, we saw a small ‘lipstick effect’ on cake. This was caused by shoppers turning to lower-value, accessible treats to replace out-of-home dining. When people are required to cut back on big expenses and luxuries, they look to treat themselves in different ways, which is where cake can play a role.”

Burton’s Biscuit Co. is reminding wholesalers about the importance of offering retailers a biscuit range that enables them to appeal to a broad range of shoppers and shopper missions. From the cost conscious to people looking for a treatier biscuit, or simply more portion control, Burton’s offers something for every occasion.

As consumers continue to face a backdrop of economic and political uncertainty, many of them are turning to affordable, everyday treats from their local convenience store to cheer them up, including their best-loved biscuits and snacks. This presents a clear opportunity for wholesalers and retailers looking to generate incremental sales from the biscuit fixture.

“Shoppers are continuing to manage budgets carefully and spending more time at home, with more opportunities to snack, where they are replacing bigger ticket treats with more affordable favourites, such as biscuits,” comments Kate Needham, Marketing Director at Burton’s Biscuit Company.

“Wholesalers can also drive sales by signposting and dual siting biscuits alongside complementary lines such as tea and coffee.”

Maryland Cookies, Burton’s Biscuit Co’s £50m (Nielsen) flagship brand, is going all out to encourage consumers to ‘Keep it Kookie’ in a major brand repositioning which plays on the fact that Maryland is ‘unashamedly different’.

Everything the brand does going forward, from the people it hires, to the adverts it makes, to the media it chooses and even the kookie cookies it aims to create, will be driven by its desire to act differently from anyone else in the market.

Backed by a £750,000 investment, Keep it Kookie will support the nation’s No.1 cookie (Nielsen with a fully-integrated, digital-led marketing campaign, complemented by a new commercial which will run extensively across social channels including YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, and on prime-time TV.

The 360? campaign is set to reach over 14 million consumers, including 91% of core Maryland consumers almost seven times, heightening brand awareness and driving shoppers to fixture.

“The whole campaign celebrates the fact that Maryland Cookies are a little kookie, proud to be unlike any other biscuit and with a new brand positioning which reflects the fact that no two Maryland Cookies are the same,” says Needham.

“We’re confident that consumers will warm to the fact that we’re celebrating what makes us all different and having lots of fun in the process, especially at a time that is particularly challenging for us all. Keep it Kookie will be encouraging millions of others to do the same,” she said.

Susan Nash, Trade Communications Manager at Mondelez International, comments: “Many convenience stores still focus their range on sweet biscuits, meaning there is an untapped opportunity for wholesalers within healthier biscuits such as belVita and Cadbury Brunch.”

The biggest healthier biscuit brand in the UK (Nielsen), belVita, provides energy for the whole morning and contains five wholegrains. It also has a best in class repeat rate of 61% (Kantar), so once shoppers know a store carries the range, they should keep coming back.

“The growth opportunity within the range is driven by multipacks or take-home packs, so wholesalers should ensure they stock up on these formats to maximise sales,” suggests Nash.

Ritz, the UK’s No. 2 savoury biscuit and growing at +19% (Nielsen), has also tapped into this desire for health as Ritz Original crackers now include 70% less saturated fat. Ritz Cheese crackers also include 50% less saturated fat.

“While more health-conscious shoppers may be snacking, or treating themselves less frequently, when they do look for a treat they’re prepared to spend more on something that tastes great and they feel good about,” says Nash.

The special treat segment is in 1.6% (Nielsen) growth, with consumers willing to trade up from commoditised offers to more premium and indulgent treats. Cadbury Biscuits are the number one special treat brand accounting for nearly half of this sub-category’s value (Nielsen). In fact, nearly £1 in every £2 spent on special treat biscuits is on Cadbury Biscuits (Nielsen). While Cadbury Fingers are the number one special treat in the Cadbury range (Nielsen), innovations, such as Cadbury Crunchy Melts, have introduced new consumers to the sub-segment too.

Looking at the types of shoppers who buy into biscuits, the average biscuit shopper is over 65 (Kantar), but by offering a differentiated experience that meets their needs the next generation of biscuit lovers can be attracted to the category.

Oreo attracts a younger consumer, with the average shopper under 45 years. The brand has grown frequency of purchase among 28-44 year olds (Kantar). Core to the brand’s proposition are ‘family experience’ and meeting the needs of today’s consumers with their busy lifestyles.

Charlotte Hulbert, Sales Manager Brioche Pasquier, comments: “The Brioche Pasquier collection of 36 frozen Macarons is our best seller, with six classic flavours including Lemon, Raspberry, Chocolate, Pistachio, Vanilla and Coffee.”

Brioche Pasquier’s Macarons are made by skilled French pâtissiers who use the finest ingredients and traditional recipes. Once baked they are quickly frozen to capture them at their peak freshness.

They keep perfectly in the freezer and then need only a couple hours to thaw. This means that customers can choose to take as many Macarons out of the freezer as they need, saving others for another day. This makes them economical and means that there need be no wastage.

Brioche Pasquier is bringing the precision, taste and quality of its foodservice range of fine French pâtisserie to wholesalers and retail customers, through a new range aimed at in-store bakeries, independent bakeries, and retail outlets with bakery counters.

The products in the in-store bakery range are supplied in transparent packaging for easy identification and are designed to offer bakeries the flexibility to use them to suit the needs of their customers. The thawed products can be displayed in their packs on the shelves, or re-packaged and offered as individual bakery items or as selection packs.

Wholesalers can now offer their retail customers a range of truly French pâtisserie, a style of sweet treat that is much in demand. The beauty of the products is bound to appeal to retailers and their customers, offering a sophisticated alternative to traditional cakes.

Sporting all the style and quality of the foodservice range, the new collection features Brioche Pasquier’s most popular flavours and varieties, with lemon, chocolate, apple and raspberry tartelettes, and a sumptuous selection of chocolate and fruity Petit Fours and Macarons.

The range includes a pack of two tartelettes, and an assortment of four tartelettes, a 12 pack of Macarons, a pack of 16 Petits Fours ‘Chocolat’, and another 16 pack featuring Petit Fours ‘Fruits’.

All Brioche Pasquier pâtisserie is free from preservatives, artificial colours and flavours and palm oil free. It is baked to traditional recipes using wholesome ingredients like fresh fruit, butter, flour and eggs from uncaged hens.

Scott Snell, Vice President of Customer at pladis UK & Ireland, comments: “Everyday Biscuits like McVitie’s Digestives and Everyday Treats like McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes are performing particularly strongly, as Britons have spent more time indoors over the past year. With an increase in home-working, shoppers have enjoyed more hot drink moments, and biscuits in the sub-categories which best complement this occasion have benefitted from a sales uplift.

McVitie’s Chocolate Digestives and McVitie’s Chocolate Hobnobs grew in value by +35% between March and September last year (Nielsen).

“It’s important for wholesalers to remember that 80% of biscuit sales come from only 8% of products in convenience stores, so they should allow plenty of space in-depot for our core range of bestselling everyday biscuits,” suggests Snell.

Six of the 10 bestselling biscuit products in convenience stores are McVitie’s brands. These are McVitie’s Chocolate Digestives, McVitie’s Chocolate Hobnobs, McVitie’s Digestives, McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes, McVitie’s Rich Tea and McVitie’s Dark Chocolate Digestives (IRI).

Since moving into 2021, pladis has announced a raft of NPD across its entire portfolio. At the beginning of January 2021, pladis launched McVitie’s Fully-Coated Digestives and Hobnobs – an indulgent new range which offers consumers their favourite biscuits, fully-enrobed in McVitie’s milk chocolate.

“Launching more indulgent products into the McVitie’s portfolio has worked well for us previously, with McVitie’s V.I.Bs achieving £1 million worth of sales just nine weeks after their July 2020 launch, so we’re excited to be introducing a brand-new range which will help wholesalers tap into the demand for affordable indulgence,” adds Snell.

Alongside this, pladis has launched four new, on-trend flavours to its bestselling McVitie’s Milk Chocolate Digestives and McVitie’s Milk Chocolate Hobnobs brands, under a new limited-edition range: McVitie’s British Icons.

The Jaffa Cakes brand was extended with the launch of two new, on-trend flavours in January – Jaffa Cakes Cherry and Jaffa Cakes Passionfruit.

 

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