Make a packet

Fifty-two McVitie’s Chocolate Digestives per second are eaten in the UK each year – that’s around 71 million packs or £78m worth – with £8m of those sales through convenience and impulse outlets (figures from AC Nielsen data).

McVitie’s Chocolate Digestives fall into the “everyday treats” segment of the biscuit category, and the very reason these biscuits are deemed “everyday treats” is because they are low cost. As a result, the McVitie’s Chocolate Digestive price-marked pack is the number one selling price-marked biscuit pack in convenience and impulse outlets.

On-the-go snacking is another trend and manufacturers have responded with alternatives to chocolate bars. McVitie’s Medley is now a £12m brand with year-to-date sales up 69%. The range has recently been extended to include a new indulgent variant – Double Chocolate, which includes a mix of HobNobs biscuit chunks combined with cereals, dark chocolate chips and milk chocolate underneath. It is available as a 40g single bar or in a multipack of six 30g bars.

Healthy eating and healthier alternatives continue to present significant sales opportunities for wholesalers and manufacturers, such as UB, have invested significantly to improve the nutritional content of products by reducing saturated fat or removing artificial colours or MSG. Between 2005 and 2011 the average saturated fat content of UB’s snacks range dropped from 14% to 4% – highlighting its commitment to providing consumers with an extensive range of “healthier” products.

Healthier biscuit brand Go Ahead!’s latest NPD comes in the form of Chocolate Thins – a selection of light, crispy biscuit slices, covered in milk chocolate. Orange, Strawberry and Cherry variants come in a five x 35.5g multipack, as well as an Orange handy-pack, with a choice of either price-marked or non-price-marked packs. A £3m marketing campaign supports the launch, including a TV campaign, social media and a summer sampling programme.

The past year has also seen a resurgence in the popularity of savoury biscuits. Classic brands such as Jacob’s Cream Crackers are showing particularly strong growth rates (+8%), which UB says is outstanding for such a mature brand.

“Savoury biscuits are recognised as being extremely versatile across different meal and eating occasions and the number of these occasions has now increased to include snacking,” says Adrian Green, biscuits shopper marketing controller for UBUK.

Bahlsen is another brand finding that wholesale customers are increasingly turning to price-marked packs (PMPs). Best sellers in wholesale are Hit Choco price-marked at 99p, as well as the three Hit flavours (Vanilla, Coconut and Hazelnut) also in PMPs at 99p and recently relaunched in convenient trays of six to allow retailers to buy a variety of flavours with a minimal outlay.

Hit is currently backed by a “Get a Hit of Happiness campaign”, which includes advertising across the UK’s most popular online parenting sites such as Mumsnet and NetMums. It is also supported by a print advertising campaign.

Four of Bahlsen’s premium continental biscuits have recently been introduced in £1 PMPs – exclusive to the wholesale trade. They are Cookies, Deloba, Delice and Messino.

Julien Lacrampe, trade marketing manager at Bahlsen, says they are flying off the shelves: “We have seen a five-fold increase in sales in the limited time that these packs have been available.” He adds that his company is improving supplier and wholesale partnerships to add value on both sides.

“We have been working on key areas such as forecasting and lead times, along with more effective promotions, which has led to the development of specific packs and specific promotions for the channel. This has allowed our field sales teams to build relationships and drive distribution on key products.”

David Costello, Burton’s Biscuit Co’s category and activation controller, is another fan of PMPs. He says: “They are one of the biggest success stories in the impulse biscuit category in recent years and independent research confirms their appeal. They are seen by consumers as an assurance of value for money, with 44% of consumers saying they are more likely to buy an item on impulse when it’s price-marked (HIM research).”

On wider category trends, Costello says there are two main factors driving growth. “Generally, shoppers are trading down to more everyday biscuit barrel products. They are also spending more time at home, to save money, where they are treating themselves, their families and friends to more indulgent products.”

Burton’s has two of the top three best-performing new products in the treat segment of the impulse sector – Maryland Big amp; Chunky Cookies White Chocolate Brownie (200g) and Milk Choc Chunk amp; Hazelnut (220g), both launched in PMPs last June (Litmus data).

Costello’s final tip for the depots is this: “Wholesalers need to remember that 45% of the impulse biscuit market is made up of everyday treats, special treats and children’s biscuits. There’s a danger in thinking that the lowest cost, everyday biscuits will lead to the highest demand, but that will alienate shoppers looking for biscuits they can enjoy as a treat.”


HOWARD GRAHAM, buyer, Dee Bees, Grimsby:
“With cakes, customers are after branded lines such as McVitie’s, Galaxy Muffins. The the five and six-packs are selling well.

Price-marking is important as customers are buying on price. In biscuits, it’s the value packs again that are most popular. Penguins, Clubs and Taxis are all selling well, price-marked at £1. £1 is the magic number at the moment.”


1 McVitie’s Digestives                 (£5.8m)
2 McVitie’s Rich Tea                   (£5.6m)
3 Maryland Cookies                      (£5m)
4 McVitie’s HobNobs                     (£3m)
5 McVitie’s Ginger Nuts              (£2.7m)
6 Fox’s Crinkles                            (£2m)
7 Fox’s Munch                              (£1m)
8 McVitie’s Fruit Shortcake         (£0.9m)
9 Jacob’s Fig Roll                       (£0.9m)
10 McVitie’s HobNob Cookies     (£0.9m)

Source: AC Nielsen


  • Stock a range of products available in counter display units that retailers can put alongside confectionery or cereal bars, or close to the till to drive impromptu sale
  • Stock the best-selling and advertised brands but don’t forget to trial new products
  • Offer your customers regular deals that match their needs and deliver visible value-for-money, such as price-marked packs and added-value, on-pack promotions
  • Create in-depot promotional days that offer discounts for a limited time to drive sales


Nestlé Confectionery is set to capitalise on the success of last year’s Aero Biscuit launch with two new flavours – Aero Mint – its best-selling confectionery flavour, and Aero Orange.
Available now, the products come in packs of seven individually wrapped bars with an RSP of £1.55.
With consumers increasingly seeking more permissible treats, the range offers all the Aero taste at 99 calories per bar but, says Nestlé, does not contain artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.

The launch will be supported by a TV advertising campaign running across June, July and August, which is expected to be seen by 35 million adults.

Aero Biscuit launched in April last year and became the biggest Chocolate Biscuit Bar (CBB) launch with the highest rate of sale for four years (IRI Total Market Data CBBs April 23, 2011 to December 31,2011: £6m Consumer Sales Value).  Nestlé says it also brought new buyers to the category with 20% of Aero biscuit buyers not having bought into CBBs in the previous six months.


In the impulse sector, IRI data has the cake category growing at 2.4% by value. Mr Kipling is the brand leader in the market, with a 19% share. Cadbury Mini Rolls is the best selling cake SKU in impulse.

However, it’s seasonal lines are the key to driving incremental sales. Andy Riddle, director of sales impulse, wholesale and foodservice, at Premier Foods, says the supermarkets are good at recognising the importance of events such as Easter, Halloween and Christmas so he’s now urging wholesalers to do the same to maximise the profit opportunity of seasonal events.
He stresses: “To drive sales, it is important that wholesalers educate their customers on merchandising their cake fixture by occasion as this allows consumers to find what they want more easily. It also allows the retailer to highlight emerging occasions such as sharing, which creates an incremental sales opportunity and ultimately drives sales for wholesalers.”

The latest addition to the Mr Kipling line up is a ‘British Sweet Shop’ collection that is part of its Inspirations range. Fruit Salad Mini Battenburgs and Pineapple Slices are available, with the Pineapple Slice packaged in the convenient snap pack format.

Snap packs were launched last year to meet demand for portion-controlled packs and to help reduce food waste. They also encourage shoppers to think about cakes outside the traditional tea time occasion such as an option for lunchboxes and snacks.

Riddle says the Inspirations range refresh programme is “incredibly successful”, delivering £17m of sales since launch in August 2009 (IRI data). The most successful SKU of the range so far is the Great British Puds Trifle Bakewell, which has delivered more than £3.3m in retail sales.

Meanwhile, McVitie’s Cake Company is encouraging consumers to ‘Bring Out the Cake’ and celebrate the Diamond Jubilee and Olympics with a slice of McVitie’s cake. The campaign, which runs until August, has sampling at events around the UK.

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