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In a door-to-door survey of the British public, you’d be hard pushed to find a single consumer who doesn’t love a good biscuit. Of course, all shoppers are looking for different things – but one key trend in the sweet snacking sector that hasn’t changed is sustainability and provenance.
A conscientious approach
A high-quality biscuit producer who has been innovative in their approach is Dawn Reade of Island Bakery, the Isle of Mull-based biscuit baker with an eight-strong range of all butter sweet biscuits, five gift tins, three savoury biscuits and three organic oatcake varieties to its name – not to mention the freshly-launched Sweet FA gluten-free range.
“We began with a range of just four organic, sweet biscuits back in 2001: Shortbread, Lemon Melts, Oat Crumbles and Chocolate Gingers. We added Apple Crumbles and Lime Melts a few years later, but were reaching capacity in our starter premises (a bijoux converted garage) so it was a few years later before we added our offerings,” begins Dawn. The range extension came hand in hand with the move to an eco-friendly way of working. “In 2012 we moved into a purpose-built bakery with wood fired ovens and renewable energy generated locally by wind and water turbines. Our capacity increased hugely, coinciding with orders to supply British Airways and Marks & Spencer. Once we got the new bakery running smoothly, we added Blonde Chocaccinos and Orange Melts to the Sweet range.
It’s not for nothing that Island Bakery’s biscuits have become a mainstay of independent retailers over the years. “Their lovely packaging with the characterful illustrations make Island Bakery appeal from the shelf,” says Dawn, “but really, if the biscuits inside were not memorable to the consumer there would be no repeat purchases and we wouldn’t still be here. You need shelf appeal, of course, but the products have to be good. We use organic ingredients, our recipes are simple and taste like homemade – that also makes them stand out from some of the rest.”
The business’s sustainability focus has brought trust from environmentally-conscious shoppers – and the retailers who service them.
“Sustainability has always been high on our priorities,” explains Dawn. “We are organic, which has a lot of sustainability principles baked into the food production regulations. We use local, renewable sources of energy – wood, wind and water. We’ve reduced plastic as much as we can, replacing our plastic trays with lovely paper boats. We still seal the biscuits in a plastic film, but we haven’t found a compostable cellulose film that performs as well.
“The production of these films is hugely energy-intensive, and they don’t break down unless they are collected and handled properly in composting facilities. If they litter the environment they are just as dangerous to wildlife as any other plastic.”
While hurdles still exist for producers working to provide eco-friendly alternatives to mainstream food production, stocking considered choices like Island Bakery’s range is bound to keep conscientious shoppers coming through your doors.
The value of heritage
Of course, fine food consumers are looking for story and provenance alongside environmental and health considerations when shopping for biscuits – and Peter’s Yard, producer of the instantly recognisable discs of crispbread with a whole stamped out of the centre, has proven that a great story is worth its weight in gold.
Peter Ljunquist’s vision to revive traditional baking methods in his rural Swedish bakery, returning to slower sourdough baking techniques and natural yeasts, is the start of the brand’s story – and the business’ origins remain directly connected with Peter’s Yard today through the 45-year-old sourdough starter and its 16-hour fermentation.
Matthew Hodgetts, Peter’s Yard’s UK & export sales manager, explains, “For Peter’s Yard, the brand’s heritage has remained central to how the business has been managed and grown. The original Swedish recipe is still used to make the original crispbread and forms the base of what has since been developed further into a wider range of crackers, flatbreads and snacks.
“Our partners and suppliers have also been carefully chosen, using ethically produced and sustainable ingredients such as Shipton Mill flours, Hillfarm Rapeseed Oils and Halen Mon sea salt. This all contributes to ensuring that Peter’s Yard’s products come from businesses that share the same values.”
The communication around Peter’s Yard products is also carefully considered to ensure that it upholds the story. According to Clare Stiles, head of marketing, explains that its heritage is evident in the relationships with people connected with the business – everyone from shoppers to retailers to wholesalers, food service and hospitality. “The message ‘good things take time’ is communicated at every occasion,” she says.
Whether you opt to stock biscuits from bakers based in your local area or further afield, by clearly communicating their credentials around quality and provenance you will be satisfying the hunger for conscious consumerism.