Move over Oreos: cheese biscuits' appeal on the rise in China

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

Cheese is the fastest growing flavor in China's biscuits market. Pic: Stevepb
Cheese is the fastest growing flavor in China's biscuits market. Pic: Stevepb

Related tags Biscuit Biscuits

Chinese consumers are expected to eat more Western style biscuits in the coming years as their knowledge of cheese types increase, according to a recent report by Mintel.

The market researcher predicts the Chinese retail biscuit market will reach 78.9bn RMB ($12.5bn) in 2021 in value terms, growing at a CAGR of 4.2%, while in volume, it will reach 3.6 million tons in 2021, growing a CAGR of 2.8% between 2016 and 2021. 

“The higher growth rate in value results from the product premiumization and the increased number of imported biscuits that are normally more costly than domestic biscuits,”​ it said.

Among the biscuits category, cookies are consistently one of the most popular biscuit types, making biscuit producers - like the Mayora Group, Campbell Soup Company, Dali Group and Want Want Holdings - able to maintain their market share in China between 2015 and 2016, added Mintel.

Cheese is fastest growing flavor in biscuits

Cheese flavored biscuits are growing faster than any other flavor types in China, growing at 2.5% year-over-year, and is currently ranked eighth among the top 10 flavors in that country, Mintel data showed.

Within this category, Mintel reported the “Mayora Group appeared to be the biggest winner, thanks to its successful marketing strategies in supermarkets and hypermarkets and the cost reduction of moving the production from overseas to China.

“It has also launched a cheese-flavored wafer in 2016 to extend the territory to health-oriented biscuits.”

Mayora Group’s biggest biscuit competitor in China, Mondelēz, has lost the most market share between 2015 and 2016 due to the poor performance of Oreo and Belvita, added Mintel.

“Chocolate and milk are the most popular flavors and also have the most products launched between 2014 and 2016​. However, [their] launches have slowed down over the years (declining by 1.1% and 1.6% respectively).”

Some of the more traditional flavors, such as plain, sesame and scallion, also saw decline in product launches over the past few years, decreasing 1.9%, 1.3%, and 0.2% year-on-year, respectively.

Butter, on the other hand, saw 1.2% increase every year on average in new biscuits coming onto the Chinese market since 2014.

Sweet biscuits account for larger share

However, despite the cheese biscuit's appeal for its nutritional dairy value, sweet biscuits still account for a bigger share in the overall market, according to Mintel.

“In 2016, Mintel estimates the sweet biscuit sub-category accounts for 53.9% of the total biscuits market in China by value… it is also projected to be growing faster than the savory biscuit segment."

Mintel said the growth is mainly driven by “the increased number of imported biscuits, consumers’ craving for indulgence and consumers’ developing habit of having biscuits as part of a meal.

“This segment is also facing rising challenges from cafés’ or bakeries’ handmade biscuits and consumers’ rising awareness of daily sugar intake,”​ said Mintel.

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