The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have changed eating preferences when it comes to biscuits.
As many as 63 percent or two-thirds of Indian consumers have eaten healthy biscuits such as multigrain, high-fibre, light, and low/no sugar varieties in the last six months, a recent survey conducted by Mintel, a global market intelligence agency, revealed.
The survey showed, that prior to the pandemic almost one-third (30 percent) of consumers said they find biscuits/cookies that improve immunity to be appealing. This number goes up to 41 percent for consumers in the South and 35 percent among consumers aged 25-34 across India.
Other health-related biscuit features that appeal to Indian consumers are energy-boosting (36 percent) and balanced nutrition (33 percent).
Speaking on the findings, Rushikesh Aravkar, Food & Drink Analyst, Mintel India said, “The spread of COVID-19 has prompted Indian consumers to proactively seek preventive healthcare and prioritise immune health. While energy and nutrition needs are being addressed by biscuit brands through on-pack claims and messaging and marketing communications, immunity-boosting credentials remain a white space opportunity,"
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
According to Aravkar, with the Indian government underscoring the importance of strong immunity and promoting Ayurveda, there is also a potential for biscuits brands to use Indian consumers' familiarity with immunity-related herbs. These include spices such as ginger, turmeric, holy basil, and ashwagandha which are commonly found in Indian kitchens.
Taste is key
While healthy credentials offer huge potential, the taste of biscuits was one of the challenges for this healthy biscuit market, the survey highlighted.
As per the survey, around 25 percent of Indians said that healthy biscuits are tasteless. This rose to 28 percent among existing users of healthy biscuits compared to 18 percent of non-users. Moreover, almost 23 percent of consumers said that taste is more important than health when eating biscuits.
The general perception that healthy biscuits are tasteless is more prominent among existing users of healthy biscuits and needs to be addressed by biscuit makers.
The biscuits category has been resilient to the pandemic and has shown quick recovery. Companies and brands that offer better-for-you innovations will drive value growth. But balancing health and indulgence is the key. “Without compromising on taste, biscuit brands need to incorporate healthy ingredients and provide health benefits to drive purposeful consumption. This will encourage health-conscious consumers to engage with the category more often. Brands need to make efforts to change this perception by adding a tinge of indulgence to healthy biscuits,” said Aravkar.
Biscuits in pantry
The research also revealed that 86 percent of Indians have eaten biscuits at least once a week. Amongst these, salted biscuits/crackers ( 74 percent), Marie (69 percent), and glucose (65 percent) biscuits are the most consumed varieties in India.
Moreover, the popularity of biscuits varies by region. While glucose and salted biscuits are favourite in North (82 percent) and West (78 percent) India, Marie biscuits are most popular in the South (75 percent) and East (79 percent) India.
GenZ enjoy indulgent treats
What’s more, unlike older Indian consumers, GenZ (aged 18-24) loved eating indulgent biscuits like cream biscuits, cookies, and cream wafers.
Mintel survey highlighted that 83% of GenZ consumers have eaten these biscuits in the past six months, compared to 59 percent of consumers aged 55 plus.
Key to the success of the biscuit category, GenZ’s love of biscuits is confirmed by the fact that half (48 percent) of consumers aged 18-24 eat seven or more biscuit types. The survey was conducted amongst 3000 Indian consumers aged 18 plus in March 2020.