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It’s crunch time – big brand or own label biscuits?

Three packets of chocolate digestive biscuits

Affordable treats are just the thing to cheer you up when times are tight. But are you loyal to your favourite big brands even though they cost a little more? Or have you found you can save on your indulgences too?

We were inspired to conduct a biscuit taste test after just under a thousand members told us that the chocolate digestive was first out the biscuit tin. Now a packet of milk chocolate biscuits certainly isn’t going to break the bank, even if I’m watching my pennies, but our tests found there were some considerable differences in price for our favourite tea time taste.

Top of the charts was McVitie’s chocolate digestive – scoring the highest in our recent taste test. No surprises there, but what did surprise me was that some own label milk chocolate digestives scored almost as highly for a fraction of the price.

Breaking the brand habit

I’m used to the idea of swapping to a premium range ready meal instead of a take away or a meal out, and using cheaper own-label staples in cooking. Economising even further on an inexpensive treat just hadn’t occurred to me.

But when I worked out I could buy three packets of Lidl’s 59p biscuits for just 2p more than one packet of McVitie’s, I could see it making sense.

The way the cookie crumbles

Out of habit I tend to go for a well-known brand when it comes to the trusted biscuit, as I can buy brands in most supermarkets. I can’t see myself making a special trip to a different store for an own label, low-cost treat, but I’ll certainly think about giving the own-label digestives in Waitrose and Sainsbury’s serious thought. They’re both more than 50p cheaper than McVitie’s, and scored highly too.

So what biscuits are in your biscuit tin? Do you loyally stick with big name brands even it they cost a bit more? Or are you switching to cheaper versions?

Which type of biscuits do you buy most often?

Own-label biscuits - they're just as tasty (43%, 99 Votes)

Branded biscuits - they're worth the extra (31%, 72 Votes)

I don't buy biscuits (25%, 58 Votes)

Total Voters: 231

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We buy biscuits from M&S. Chocolate digestives are as good or better than McVities at, often, around half the price. Rich Tea, Ginger Nut, Shortbread, and so on all as good as main brands but cheaper. Off topic – I’ve always been an HP Sauce fan until recently we bought M&S Brown Sauce at,again, half the price and it passed the taste test with flying colours.


Fox’s biscuits turn up in Tesco, M&S and elsewhere, and are easily recognisable. They can be cheaper. Of course biscuits are full of fat and sugar, so I’ve eaten them all to avoid temptation.


That’s exactly why I don’t buy biscuits, Wavechange. Once they are in the cupboard, I won’t rest until I have eaten every last one.

I used to buy own-label biscuits when I was a student and never noticed a difference in quality. It’s hard to get a bourbon biscuit wrong.


It’s good to know that someone else is not good at keeping their biscuits, Katie. The best solutions that I have found are to make my own biscuits (the effort involved makes me value them more), buy biscuits in sealed tins (on the basis that I will try to keep them until a visitor comes round) or to buy Rich Tea (which are the only biscuits I hate). I’ve never worked out why I can keep boxes of nice chocolates for months but biscuits have to be eaten, especially stem ginger cookies. 🙂


In the pre-recessionary days when tea and biscuits were served at business meetings, it was interesting to observe behaviour. People who came from another building or organisation used to arrive early and scoff all the Bourbon creams. Next in the “pecking order” were the custard creams followed by the plain digestives, the rich tea, and the ginger nuts in that order. Late arrivers might have to gnaw at a Garibaldi or scrape up the crumbs of a Lincoln. I never saw a chocoate-coated biscuit at these meetings. I think the secretaries used to purloin these in advance for the private offices and their bosses’ tiffin.

I do believe the McVitie dark chocolate digestive [or the “McVitie & Price Homewheat Chocolate Digestive” as it was called when I was growing up] is the most toothsome of all the brands available although Sainsbury’s runs it close. M&S and Cadbury are a little overloaded for my taste. I am not sufficiently familiar with any of the other chocolate digestives s to pass judgment. I think McVitie’s also lead the way with Hobnobs and Jaffa Cakes over their own-label copies. For dunking, I think Bourbon Creams are my favourite and nobody can beat Huntley & Palmer’s [previously Peek Frean’s] on taste and texture.

Perhaps the recent report on Obesity from the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges will provoke the government to putting VAT on Jaffa Cakes. The Customs & Excise tried to classify them as a biscuit once before but the Court decided – after a grand sampling session no doubt – that they were indeed a cake and therefore zero-rated. The clue is in the name presumably. Alternatively, we could just rename the entire genus “Obesity Biscuits” and see how popular they remain.


John Ward, the star of the dunking biscuits has to be the Ginger Nut! Perhaps they were left till the end at business meetings so they could be dunked in private afterwards.


I had never consciously considered the hierarchy of the biscuits presented in business meetings, though I do have an awareness of what to expect from different organisations. The local council generally does provide biscuits but – presumably as a result of funding cuts – the quality has suffered over the years, making Bourbon and Custard Cream a safer choice than anything with a chocolate coating. Meetings with Natural England are the highlight, though that is thanks to one generous employee and a local shop. I doubt that Defra provides NE with funding for biscuits these days.

John’s suggestion for classification of biscuits could be the basis of an interesting taxonomic study. It would be interesting to know whether certain species are best served with tea or coffee. Producing biscuits suitable for dunking may require collaboration between engineers, physicists and chemists.


Lidl’s biscuits are ghastly as with much else
besides (not all)….go for the premium ones
when on special offer, then stock up.


I buy Dark Chocolate HobNobs as I find them delicious – In Sainsburys they are often under a pound a packet – So I buy a packet or two then – One packet lasts my three dogs and I about two weeks – so often have three months supply – we share a biscuit or two between the four of us daily.
Please don’t write in about how dangerous dark chocolate is for dogs – not actually true in normal quantities – the toxic level of dark chocolate is 6 ounces for a 50 lb dog according to a number of vet’s studies – that is around 100 times the amount in a quarter of a HobNob – Even I haven’t eaten 6 oz of chocolate in one go – and I NEVER leave them around outside the fridge as they go stale .
In addition I’ve helped run a dog adoption kennels for large dogs (roughly 100lbs each) (Metric obsessed posters please convert) – some of our dogs have been given chocolate daily by well meaning adopters – In 50 years the number of dogs suffering overdoses of chocolate ZERO – the number of daily chocolate eaters living over 14 YEARS (a good age for a large dog) around 10 a year.


In these days of austerity, we should ban biscuits, bottled water, free tea and coffee from all public meetings and replace them with vending machines – proceeds to help pay off the deficit. We could also sell off the Houses of Parliament’s wine cellar and serve British Drinks to foreign visitors – Irn Bru and Dandelion and Burdoch. I have other ideas for running the country if you are interested.


For me, it has to be Tesco bourbon creams every time. I’ve recently been experimenting with bourbons from different ranges at different price levels, and I believe bourbons in the ‘value’ category actually have slightly less cream inside and a very slightly different tasting biscuit. Instead, I’ve opted for the own-brand, but not the ‘value’ brand. And John Ward – you’re spot on with the biscuit hierarchy!


I have to ask where Stem Ginger Cookies come in the hierarchy, and whether inexpensive variants exist.

John Felix. says:
22 February 2013

As someone,including family,never eat milk chocolate digestive biscuits,I am surprised you did not include plain chocolate biscuits in your survey.


Couldn’t agree more John – plain