A (not so) new name
Although we have been accustomed to calling the brown-baked Lotus cookie “speculoos” or “speculaas” for a long time, in the past three years we have been introduced to a new name – Biscoff. This name, a contraction of the English words ‘biscuit’ and ‘coffee’, is more palatable to an international audience and is now used to refer to both speculoos cookies and speculoos spread, as well as chocolate and ice cream.
Race to the podium
In 2023, Lotus’ speculoos biscuits managed to secure a spot in the top five most popular biscuits worldwide. The top two spots are occupied by Oreo and the lesser-known Chips Ahoy! from Mondelez. Lotus CEO Jan Boone, who has held the position since 2011, is ambitious and aims to climb to third place. However, he acknowledges that this goal will require a lot of effort, as he mentions, “we will have to double to even jump to fourth place.”
Booming stock market value
Despite the relatively low cost of a single Biscoff biscuit, the brand as a whole holds a high value. In 2023, Lotus achieved a turnover of 1.062 billion euros, with around 500 million coming from the Biscoff brand alone. This includes not just the cookies, but also the caramelized biscuit spread and the caramelized biscuit ice cream. Out of the total turnover, a net amount of 129.3 million euros remained.
The stock market value of Lotus Bakeries has seen a remarkable increase over the years. In 2000, the company was worth 42 million euros. This value surpassed the 100 million mark in 2005, reached 250 million in 2009, and 500 million in 2013. By 2015, the company was worth almost 1.5 billion, and this value doubled to 2 billion just a year later. In 2020, the company’s worth grew to 3 billion and currently, it stands at almost 7.5 billion.
More and more employees
The increasing turnover has allowed for a growing workforce. In 2023, Lotus had nearly 3,000 employees worldwide, with about half of them based in Belgium. This is approximately half more than in 2020 and almost three times more than in 2010.
“My grandfather already coded the raw materials of the cookie to keep the recipe secret”
CEO Lotus Bakeries
Half of the Lotus shares are still owned by the Boone-Stevens family. In eight years, the company will be one hundred years old, having been founded in 1932 by Jan Boone Sr, the grandfather of the current CEO.
Billion dollar production
To achieve a turnover in the billions, a company has to produce a lot of cookies. In 2023, Lotus produced a whopping 10 billion caramelized biscuits, the majority of which were produced in Lembeke. This translates to an average of about 830 million cookies per month, or more than 27 million cookies per day.
Top secret recipe
The recipe for all these cookies has only been “optimized” over the years and remains a closely guarded secret. Only a few insiders know the complete recipe. “My grandfather already coded the raw materials of the cookie to keep the recipe secret,” says CEO Jan Boone, who believes that the light caramel flavor is the key to the cookie’s success. He maintains tight-lipped about the exact ingredients, but does reveal that the base consists of wheat flour, vegetable oil, sugar, and a secret spice mix. The Biscoff cookies have been vegan for almost forty years and no longer contain butter.
Besides the cookies, Lotus speculoos spread is also extremely popular. The spread was first introduced on the television program The creators in 2007, where two candidates presented their invention of speculoos spread. The controversy arose when only candidate Els Scheppers, who had developed a paste based on Lotus caramelized biscuits, reached the final, while Danny De Maeyer, who had already obtained a patent for his invention, did not. Following this, Lotus commercialized the paste, bought the patent from De Maeyer, and even had to hire additional staff to meet the demand for the paste. In 2011, the court annulled the patent because an older recipe for speculoos spread already existed, which allowed other companies to make speculoos spread.
More than half of Lotus’ paste consists of cookies that are first baked and then finely ground.
The Conquest of the US
To achieve a turnover of one billion, a company also needs to extend its market beyond national borders. Lotus Bakeries has been highly successful in this regard. In 1990, the first cookies were transported to the United States as a snack for air travelers. Today, the United States is the largest sales market for Lotus. It is, therefore, no surprise that Lotus started baking cookies on American soil in 2019. The United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and China complete the top five most important sales markets.
After the factories in Lembeke and in the American state of North Carolina, Lotus plans to open a third factory in Thailand in 2026. “That factory will be built for sure,” says Jan Boone. “There are now four hundred people working on the site to build them. With the factory, we aim to better serve the Asian and Oceanic market. Not only China is an important export country, but also Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, and Australia.”