Biscuits have come a long way from being perceived as just a package of plain squares made to dunk in morning tea. Consumers are looking to cookies, biscuits, and crackers more and more to indulge in a small, portable, guiltless snack, but they’re not settling for average anymore as these snacks become an outlet for indulgence in the wellness journeys.

When consumers think about what’s fun and new in snacks, Asia is the first to come to mind for many. To meet consumer demand for new and adventurous snacks, Asian brands are exploring new ways of innovating around decadence and health in the biscuit, cracker, and cookie sector while keeping their reputation for being at the forefront of the snacking evolution strong.

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A Global Need for Indulgence and Health

A sentiment that’s shared globally by consumers is the desire to explore new flavors and trends while embracing novelty and multi-sensory experiences in their food. This could include adding glitter to cocktails or popping candy to unexpected desserts, like cookies, to add more joy and surprise to the snack.

On the flip side to the “novelty” items, consumers worldwide are also very interested in health and wellness and want to get the most nutritional value from everything they eat and drink. This means consumers are actively looking for ingredients they recognize as healthy on their snack and drink items, especially for immunity support to boost their health, like citrus fruits, spinach, and cauliflower, during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as trendy probiotics and other functional foods.

Trending in Asia

Asia has a reputation for creating unique food and drink that people all over the world search out just to try innovative flavors and ingredients only found in specialty stores outside of Asia. This reputation for novelty keeps consumers excited and continues to drive new ideas and flavor combinations that delights especially Millennials and Gen Z who love seeking out and trying these new foods. This innovation is found rampant within the biscuits and cookies sector, where unexpected flavors borrowed from other sectors, like beef jerky crackers, keep consumers engaged and interested in continued sales.

Asia is also at the forefront of promoting the health benefits of these snack foods, knowing exactly how to balance perceived decadence with function. For health-conscious consumers in and outside of Asia, these brands are highlighting their natural, organic, and better-for-you ingredients as a way to indulge in cookies, crackers, and biscuits in a satisfying way while also feeling good about choosing a snack with a healthy edge.

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Indulgent Innovation

Novel ingredients drive sales, and for adventurous eaters interested in trying something new, the more unusual the flavor combination in a cookie or biscuit, the better. On the tamer end of the innovation spectrum, there are further innovations within the “sweet and salty” trend, like sea salt and grapefruit-flavored crispy potato biscuits in China, or Korean biscuits with sugar, coconut, and oyster.

There are also snacks bringing in more “spicy and savory” elements, like Japanese sandwich cookies with butter and black pepper infused in the cream and pretzel sticks from Vietnam with spicy barbeque-flavored cream filling. Then on the far end of the innovation spectrum, meat-lovers who also have a sweet tooth would go wild for the beef jerky cookies found in China and Taiwan which feature a beef jerky center (or others feature the jerky chopped and mixed into the cookie batter like chocolate chips) encased in a sugar cookie, giving the snack a salty, crispy, sweet, and chewy texture at the same time.

Functional Innovation

While novel ingredients tend to get more viral attention, Asia’s biscuit innovations are also highly focused on bringing healthier ingredients into indulgent snacks. Ingredients like immune-boosting cauliflower is incorporated into cookies and crackers to make them more nutrient-rich with a neutral-tasting vegetable that appeals to health-conscious consumers concerned about healthy snacking. Brands prominently promote these ingredients with health benefits and find the line between making something indulgent and beneficial. In Indonesia, butter and oat cookies that are low in fat and sugar and rich in protein and minerals are promoted as “more cookies, less guilt,” playing off the ideal that if cookies are “good for you,” consumers are allowed to have another bite and not feel bad that a chocolate chip or two snuck in.

Some brands are more overt with their health offerings, such as sweet potato organic rice biscuits found in Taiwan and China that advertise being free from artificial colors or additives while being high in energy and nutrition or Malaysian crackers that are packed full of whole-body benefits, from carrots for heart health, yeast for spleen health, seaweed for liver health, and black sesame for kidney health.

Others, however, take the route of packaging the health benefits in a deceivingly indulgent package, like Mom hiding the broccoli in the kids’ macaroni and cheese. In Indonesia, one brand has packaged their snack high in nutritional benefits, featuring superfood ingredients like beet, kale, and curcumin, in bright, rainbow-colored puffs that also happen to be filled with chocolate, because everyone deserves a reward for eating their vegetables.

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