Everybody loves a birthday and biscuit giant Arnott’s is celebrating a milestone this year with its 150th anniversary that’s encouraging everyone to rediscover the joy of sharing a sweet treat with a friend over a cup of tea.
Better still, make it a dunk in that time-honoured tradition sanctioned by world-renowned chef Heston Blumenthal, who’s done the science to show that bickies do indeed taste better dipped in a cuppa.
“Dunking is certainly a tradition,” Arnott’s marketing director Nik Scotcher said. “We have lots of debates in the office about which biscuits are best. I’m partial to Scotch Fingers because they’re nice and thick and hold their shape but some of the plainer varieties, such as Milk Arrowroot and Marie, work well, too. A lot of people like Nice because they’ve got a coating of sugar on top.”
Admittedly, nothing beats the Tim Tam Slam. Taking a nibble out of each end of the biscuit, then using it as a straw to suck up a hot coffee that turns the cream-sandwiched layer into a gooey mess in your mouth.
From humble beginnings baking pies and ship’s biscuits from a small shopfront in Newcastle to national brand with facilities in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, Arnott’s has preserved its identity with the iconic parrot logo — based on a bird that lived until 1918 — through the takeover by US conglomerate Campbell’s in the 90s. It controls more than 60 per cent of the local sweet and savoury biscuit market and exports to 40 countries.
A production plant in West Java caters for South-East Asian tastes, which prefer stronger cocoa notes and flavours such as cheddar cheese Tim Tams and Shapes Abon made with shredded fried beef “floss”.
There are 125 varieties in the Australian range, with Ginger Nuts the quirkiest of all because of idiosyncrasies in bakeries in different States. Victoria’s and Tasmania’s are big, sweet and on the softer side of hard, but WA’s and SA’s are bigger and sweeter still. Queensland’s are thinner and darker and NSW has the hardest, thickest and smallest biscuits of all.
“They’re truly a State-based biscuit,” Mr Scotcher said. “The recipes are practically identical, so it’s mostly to do with how they are baked and prepared that differs from site to site. We’ve had to leave it that way because of consumer reactions when we tried to nationalise production. People told us they preferred their homegrown variety.”
A handful of old faithfuls are more than 100 years old. Milk Arrowroot dates back to 1882. Iced VoVo, Scotch Finger and SAO were introduced in 1906. Monte Carlo was launched in 1926; Shapes in 1954. Tim Tam, named after a racehorse that won the Kentucky Derby in 1958, made its debut in 1964 and is Arnott’s top-selling sweet biscuit in Australia, with the Original just reformulated to remove artificial colours in line with consumer demand. Four new limited-edition flavours — salted caramel, red velvet, choc raspberry and coconut cream, created by celebrity patissier Adriano Zumbo, have been released this year.
“We tend to find new flavours work best in limited editions and were planning to do these for a year but salted caramel and red velvet have been so popular that we’ll keep them on the shelves for longer,” Mr Scotcher said. “New and exciting things are always on the horizon and we get inspired by trends around the world.”
Arnott’s is in a twist over its new range of cream biscuits — the first in 10 years. Think Monte Carlo Salted Caramel, Shortbread Cream Strawberries and Cream, plus Delta Cream Jaffa Choc Orange.
“Our Twisted Faves (released last month) have turned three of our most iconic biscuits on their heads,” Arnott’s marketing director Nik Scotcher said. “They’re a new idea and we’re going to see how they go.”
Traditionalists will always prefer the originals, which are here to stay, but chocolatey biscuit Delta Cream goes down a treat with its layer of orange and milk chocolate-flavoured cream. So does crunchy Monte Carlo with salted caramel cream wrapped in chewy toffee caramel.
The verdict: All stack up. But nothing beats an original vanilla Shortbread Cream.
“We’re very excited about these three and they’ll be on the market for at least a year,” Mr Scotcher said. “People can expect to see a lot more Twisted Faves in the future.”
The biscuits are available from Coles and Woolworths.