Crumbs of comfort: When times get tough, Britons reach for chocolate digestives

Crumbs of comfort: When times get tough, Britons reach for chocolate digestives

Crumbs of comfort: When times get tough, Britons reach for chocolate digestives

12:05 AM on 18th May 2011

In these times of trouble, Britons are increasingly reaching for the biscuit barrel and a cup of tea.

Sales of traditional favourites, from chocolate digestives to custard creams, have risen at the same time as the country’s economic woes have worsened.

The total market is up by 22 per cent over the past five years to some 2.2billion.

Comfort food: The market for biscuits is up 22 per cent as economic woes have Britons reaching for the treats

Comfort food: The market for biscuits is up 22 per cent as economic woes have Britons reaching for the treats

Along with meat pies and sausage rolls, biscuits fall into the segment of comfort foods, which have enjoyed something of a revival in recent years.

Luxuries such as eating out, trips to the cinema and gym memberships have been cut out as families hunker down at home to conserve cash, while dunking a biscuit in a cuppa provides the sugar rush and emotional pick-me-up people feel they need.

Research by Mintel found 54 per cent of the nation regularly indulge in a biscuit or two with a hot drink. The group forecasts biscuit sales to grow a further 15 per cent to reach 2.6billion by 2015.

Soggy: 54 per cent of the nation regularly indulge in a biscuit or two with a hot drink

Soggy: 54 per cent of the nation regularly indulge in a biscuit or two with a hot drink

This year the sweet biscuit market alone is forecast to reach 1.9billion, having increased a sensational 20 per cent since 2005. It is predicted to grow a further 16 per cent over the next five years.

Mintel’s senior food and drink analyst, Amy Lloyd, said: ‘The UK biscuit industry has benefited from consumers reaching for the biscuit barrel throughout the recession. The ritualistic nature of eating biscuits with a hot drink appeals to consumers, demonstrating how ingrained this occasion is within British culture.’

However she said it was important for manufacturers to find new biscuit varieties that appeal to young adults, who are less likely to drink tea than their parents’ generation.

Mintel said chocolate digestives and individually wrapped varieties are in joint first position as the nation’s favourite sweet biscuit.

More than half the population (53 per cent) have bought one or other of these in the past year.

Cookies, such as chocolate chip, came in next, with 42 per cent having bought them, ahead of custard creams and Bourbons on 39 per cent.

Further down the league table are sweetmeal or wholemeal digestive biscuits (36 per cent) followed by Rich Tea (34 per cent).

Mintel said there is significant evidence that people are trying to limit the impact on their health of these little indulgences. Varieties with lower fat and sugar are growing in popularity with annual sales of 468million.

The study found one area where the trend has not been so positive, with an 11 per cent fall in sales of biscuit selection boxes over the past two years.