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Coffee cookie war hots up

29 October 2008 by

The two major rivals in the sector have made their latest moves, and have just been joined by a surprise third player.

One of the main contenders in the field is the wholesaler Espresso Warehouse of Glasgow, which has long advocated the use of British artisan bakers, most usually in Scotland.

Its newest product is the Cookie Bite, a 'little biscuits for little hands' product for children, either in cafés or in retail packs. They are promoted on the basis of their low-fat levels, and the unusual use of an oat-based biscuit with a yoghurt topping.

Byron Bay Cookie Bite
Byron Bay Cookie Bite

"Cookie Bites are unlike anything else," says Espresso Warehouse managing director Gary McGann. "My personal experience is that if you take two kids to a café-bar, you can never achieve two equal halves of a biscuit… so we removed that problem by making individual biscuits, and giving more control to the parent.

"At the same time, it is a better snack, one that's OK between meals. The big problem with this is that children won't eat oats - so the big test for us in the development was to achieve the right balance between oats and shortbread, that the kids wouldn't take the icing off the top and leave the biscuit!

"The 'icing' itself is a healthier option, because it's based on yoghurt. I don't know if this is a common topping, but it works. The smartie-type topping is one without artificial colouring, and that was a very hard thing to source."

The other major player in wholesale supply to cafes and the beverage trade is Beyond the Bean of Bristol, which has responded with a major move in support of its Byron Bay Cookies.

These cookies have aroused a great deal of interest, but have also come in for some controversy through having been baked in Australia, and shipped to Britain - competitors have been quick to ask if that is good for either the freshness or the environment.

Byron Bay and Beyond the Bean have now effectively closed that argument by setting up a bakery in Britain. Byron Bay reports that it has invested ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds' in finding the right bakery in the UK, and the move will be the subject of a trade campaign under the slogan Baked in Blighty.

Four flavours will begin to be made in the UK from November, and by January the full range will be produced here. The British distributor, Beyond the Bean, is very keen on obtaining certifications for its products, and is submitting the whole range for approval by the Vegetarian Society, with the gluten-free cookies also to be submitted for the Coeliac Society Cross Grain symbol.

The original Byron Bay cookies are of an extremely generous size and individually wrapped; another new move is an alternative bite-sized version.

The surprising new arrival in the biscuit sector is Cooper's Coffee of Yorkshire, which has become the national coffee sector distributor for a 'super-premium fusion-bakery' company, the Miniature Bakery.

Miniature Bakery
Miniature Bakery

The Miniature Bakery was founded in 2007 by a group of food enthusiasts whose particular manufacturing enthusiasm was for craft bakery and quality chocolate, and the bakery's chairman is Malcolm Little, once the chief executive of United Biscuits. The company began in a kitchen in the once world-famous Batley Variety Club in Yorkshire.

The range of biscuits now available to the coffee sector through Cooper's has organic approval from the Soil Association, and includes miniature chocolate snaps, chocolate meringues, and chocolate Viennese.

Each variety is available in small 2-cup 'grab-packs' or as four-cup retail packs. A merchandising display unit is provided for use on shop counters.

The range has already appeared in Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Harrods.

David Cooper, managing director of Cooper's, said: "These indulgent new products, hand-baked by a team of highly-skilled bakers and chocolatiers, are unlike anything I have ever tasted before.

"The Lemon Viennese Sundae looks like a biscuit but tastes like a cake. The portions are similar to chocolates, making them an accompaniment to an espresso or latte."

By Ian Boughton

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