Olivia Gagan investigates how to keep biscuits & cakes sales healthy while catering to a more nutrition and convenience-conscious market
You are operating in a market that demands health-focused products and indulgent treats. How can you adapt your range accordingly to make the most of this rapidly evolving category, catering to retail and food-to-go custom?
As Steve Kelly, channel director at Premier Foods, notes: “The biscuits & cakes sales category has previously been driven by the take-home occasion, but out-of-home snacking is a key focus across the industry.” Leading and smaller suppliers share their top tips.
Sugar tax or not, it seems we all still love dunking a biscuit in our tea or coffee, at home and away. Manufacturers have responded to calls for lower amounts of sugar by increasing the range of individually wrapped, single-serving packs of biscuits they offer.
Premier Foods’ Kelly says: “Wholesalers can capitalise on this trend by stocking products that allow convenient, individual portions to be taken. Within this, portion control is of importance to consumers as they are increasingly conscious about their food choices.”
On this point, Pladis has launched two new additions to its popular McVitie’s Thins range: McVitie’s Digestives Chocfilled Thins and McVitie’s Hobnobs Thins. Emma Stowers, brand director for McVitie’s at Pladis UK&I, says: “The Thins range is an important innovation platform for McVitie’s. Since the first McVitie’s Digestives Thins launch last year, its popularity has grown quickly and consistently, with retail sales of £17m to date.”
However, while consumers are becoming more health-conscious, consumers are working to earn their treats. For its Maryland cookies brand, Burton’s Biscuit Company launched the ‘What would you do for a Maryland?’ campaign, which asked shoppers what they might do to earn one of the brand’s cookies.
“We wanted to create a value behind the Maryland brand and found that our consumers would do almost anything for Maryland cookies, whether it is rewarding themselves for taking the dog for a walk, or trekking up Ben Nevis,” says Mandy Bobrowski, UK & Ireland marketing director for Burton’s Biscuit Company. “This campaign not only championed our core 10g cookie, but has also driven sales of the wider portfolio including Maryland Minis – the number-one kids mini brand – and our new Big & Chunky lines.”
The latter range includes two varieties – Milk & Dark, and White Choc & Caramel, retailing at £1.49 per 180g pack.
Another strong theme to be aware of in this category is products strongly associated with a particular country or region. Brioche Pasquier’s foodservice sales manager, Jon Turonnet, says: “In keeping with the trend for regionality across all types of foods, provenance is increasingly important in bakery.
“The popularity of television baking programmes has fuelled the desire for French pâtisserie, for example, and more consumers now recognise and appreciate the skill that goes into preparing these products.”
Samantha Winsor, assistant brand manager at Lantmännen Unibake UK, says these “on-trend, premium products can increase profit margins as consumers are willing to pay more for authenticity”. She points to Portuguese custard tart, or pastel de nata, as an example. “From street food to traditional cake shops, the pastel de nata is everywhere,” she says. “You can even find whole stores dedicated to them in London. Its small size, light pastry and easy-to-hold shape makes it the perfect sweet snack.”
Lantmännen Unibake has responded by making its own version for the UK wholesale market. “They are produced just outside of Lisbon in Portugal to a traditional Portuguese recipe, for an authentic taste,” says Winsor.
Tom Styman-Heighton, development chef at Funnybones Foodservice, says his company is also creating products marketed around provenance. “Cheesecake of all sorts is back and is now enjoying a renaissance in this country, for example,” he notes. “We offer modern takes on traditional US recipes, such as salted caramel, honeycomb and banoffee.”
He recommends running offers and promotions for these products in line with seasonal and regional events: “Make the most of special occasions, such as American Independence Day, and run offers to encourage customers to buy and serve on the day. A promotion along the lines of offering a percentage off US cakes and desserts for American Independence Day will engender goodwill.”
Managing waste is a concern for both you and your retailer customers alike. Frozen cakes are often the most practical and cost-efficient way for operators to offer good quality and a wide choice, and frozen food not only delivers convenient portion control, it also means even seasonal food is easily accessible.
Lantmännen Unibake UK’s Winsor, says: “Frozen bakery products offer outlets all the commercial benefits of fresh, with minimal operational costs. Frozen bakery products also allow outlets the freedom to offer a broad range of quality bakery products, with minimal labour requirements, and without the inconvenience of storing fresh ingredients – it is all in one frozen box.”
That said, Funnybones’ Styman-Heighton admits: “Cakes and desserts, particularly frozen ones, are not easy to display. They can be tucked away in the corner of the freezer and may need a little help to catch the eyes of customers. Be sure to display them well without
overcrowding the freezer.
“Anything you can do to make it easy for customers to find what they want will be useful. Good labelling is essential and helps to group things together – for example, organising cakes into varieties, such as lemon and chocolate.”
Winsor says you should also advise your customers “to bake little and often throughout the day” to keep products fresh and appealing.
This also decreases waste, as short baking times make it easy to manage stock levels, she points out.
Many of the suppliers and brands we spoke to urged you to be proud of your biscuits & cakes sales range and let the proof, quite literally, be in the pudding by offering tastings of new products. Brioche Pasquier’s Turonnet says: “The benefits of a cake or biscuit are best demonstrated by tasting them. We recommend wholesalers offer customers tasters.”
Funnybones’ Styman-Heighton agrees: “Tasting is the most effective way of encouraging customers to buy, so offer small samples,” he says. “Much of a purchase is made with the eyes and customers need to see the finished product well displayed.”
“Stock the bestsellers from brands people know and love, and use brand blocking to help retailers find their bestsellers – many prefer to stock multiple products from the same brand to give shoppers consistency.
“In addition, highlight promotions and seasonal editions at displays at the front of the depot, away from the main fixture; think about what events are coming up and earmark display space accordingly.
“Elsewhere, signpost bestselling brands using eye-catching point-of-sale material to make it easy for retailers to find what they are looking for. Try stocking pricemarked packs of well-known brands, too. These allow retailers to be transparent about prices and offer shoppers great value on top products.”
“Customers increasingly like high-quality seasonal cakes and biscuits. We did really well last Christmas with bake-in-store luxury mince pies from Country Choice. We sold them individually under a glass bell on the shop counter, and also packaged them in cardboard boxes and ribbon and sold them as small gifts.”
“Our bestselling cake is a Dorset apple cake – locals and tourists love it because of the local connection. Dense, calorific products, such as chocolate brownies, are decreasing in popularity. Gluten-free biscuits and cakes have taken off – we are selling a lot of gluten-free Florentine biscuits to go with our coffees, for example.”
“We stock local products with provenance as well as the well-known classic biscuit brands in our corner shop. Biscuits and cakes from local suppliers are popular and people will come in and ask for them. High-quality cakes and biscuits always sell well and we make hampers featuring luxury biscuits, too.”
“We are selling fewer big slices of cake, and more bar and tray-style cake slices. Cakesmith’s Salted Caramel Bubble Traybake is our bestseller. Sales tend to move with the time of day: pastries in the morning, cake slices around lunchtime and then biscuits and cookies as mid-afternoon snacks or energy boosts. Requests for gluten-free and vegetarian products are also increasing.”