Ayisha Koyenikan
As a Global Food & Drinks Analyst, Ayisha provides insights to clients in Europe and around the world in the prepared meals and bakery sectors.

Even before the global impact of COVID-19, there was a growing sense of nostalgia among European consumers. Over half of Italian adults say they ‘enjoy things that remind them of the past.’ Amid the unfolding crisis, brands can expect to see this desire heightened. Sweet biscuit brands are well placed to take advantage of this. 

In times of crisis, nostalgia sells

During periods of uncertainty, nostalgia can become a strong purchase driver as consumers seek reminders of less stressful periods. Retro food brands or formats can transport them back and engender a sense of calm.

Biscuit brands should tap into this growing desire for sentiment and nostalgia, as sweet biscuits are already consumed as a source of comfort. In fact, over a third of US cookie consumers say that being comforting is an important attribute for any cookie brand. To capture this, brands could explore both relaunching retro products or incorporating nostalgic formats into existing ranges. 

Dunkable biscuits is one format brands could explore. Dunking cookies or sweet biscuits into milk, tea or sweet dips carries all sorts of connotations of childhood, and can appeal to both kids and adults as a result.

Dunkable biscuits have comfort baked in

Source: Photo by Nerfee Mirandilla on Unsplash

General Mills brings back 90’s throwback Dunkaroos

In February 2020, General Mills announced it would be relaunching sweet biscuit Dunkaroos in the US market. First launched in 1992, before being discontinued in 2012, the biscuit consists of a sweet vanilla cookie with vanilla frosting dip and rainbow sprinkles. The relaunch was designed as a throwback to “a time of neon, knick-knacks and nostalgia,” according to General Mills.

General Mills’ Dunkaroos

Source: General Mills

With the current crisis around COVID-19 set to heighten desire for nostalgic products, bringing back retro formats can be a strong move. But in doing so, brands need to be aware of the big shift in attitudes toward health. In bringing back Dunkaroos with the same high sugar recipe that proved successful in the ‘90s, General Mills could face a challenge in appealing to the more health-conscious consumers of 2020.

Combine nostalgia with nourishment

Bringing back retro dunking formats in sweet biscuits could appeal to both adults – that remember the original format – and kids that are discovering it for the first time. But brands should be aware that sweet biscuits targeting children will be held to a higher standard of health. 

Parents are heavily involved in deciding which snacks their children consume, with nearly one in four US parents giving their kids a choice of snack foods, rather than allowing them to decide on their own. In the UK, almost half of parents are concerned that their children have too much sugar in their diet.

The quantity of sugar in children’s diets is one of parents’ biggest concerns and so this will be front of mind in selecting suitable biscuits or snacks. Biscuit brands will need to keep this in mind when looking to relaunch retro formats with sugar-rich dips or coatings. 

Brands, therefore, shouldn’t adopt throwback approaches on health. Instead, they should combine this nostalgia in dunking biscuits with new healthier ingredients – tying to trends around sugar-free, gluten-free and high fibre.

Livia’s Dunx balances fun and functional

Livia’s Dunx Choco Hazel Twist

Source: Livia Dunx

In 2019, bakery brand Livia’s launched Dunx in the UK, a range of oat-based cookies paired with a nut butter dip. The range, which comes in three flavours (Maple Peanut Drizzle, Caramel Almond Swirl and Choco Hazel Twist) is positioned as an indulgent treat in a nostalgic dunking format, but it also integrates core elements of healthy eating, as the biscuits are gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan. The product also emphasizes portability, with packs designed to fit into lunchboxes and handbags. This approach successfully updates a much-loved format for a modern, health-conscious consumer.

Give dips a contemporary makeover

Brands can also create a sense of nostalgia with throwback biscuit formats, such as those served with a sweet dip. This will appeal even more amid uncertainty when consumers crave familiar comfort food. The format of the products could be updated as well, to tap into the health halo of trending ‘better for you’ alternatives, such as nut butter dips as opposed to sugary frosting. 

Biscoff & Go targets grown-up dunking

Lotus’ Biscoff & Go

Source: Lotus 

In 2020, manufacturer Lotus created a new dunking format for its Biscoff spread. The packs launched in the US combine bread sticks with a portion of the cookie-flavoured spread.

With Biscoff typically targeted at adults, the launch demonstrates the potential in dunking formats aimed at grown-ups. According to Mintel Purchase Intelligence, half of consumers said they would definitely or likely buy this product.

The product also compares favourably on sugar. It contains 12g per 45g and 26g per 100g. This sits below average sugar content for global launches of sweet biscuits in the year to April 2020.

It also compares favourably with dips that have adopted a similar format, such as Nutella & Go, which also pairs its spread with breadsticks, but contains twice as much sugar.