Flying Is Back and So Are Biscoffs, the Little Cookies That Launch Obsessions

Flying Is Back and So Are Biscoffs, the Little Cookies That Launch Obsessions
Flying Is Back and So Are Biscoffs, the Little Cookies That Launch Obsessions

To show the awesome things that flying is capable of, here’s a post about Biscoff cookies. They are a popular European baked good, made with ground almonds and chocolate, and they were invented in the 1930s in Holland. Originally, the cookies were actually called Biscuitti, but that soon became unpronounceable, so the name was shortened.

This week, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lifted its ban on batches of the controversial Biscoff cookie, which had been banned because it was deemed to have caused an Aeromexico flight’s decompression in 2013. The cookie, the best known of the Biscoff-style “spiritual truffles”, was all the rage in the 1980s when it was invented in Belgium. Now, more than a decade later, it’s finally back.

Honor Sachs, a professor of early American history in Colorado, was shocked when she sat on a crowded plane in May. Flying has one advantage: I missed the Biscoff liver, she tweeted from her seat.

I’m like Pavlov’s dog when I see those cars coming up the driveway, Mrs. Sachs says.

Air travel has resumed after a year in which a pandemic ravaged the country, and Americans already hate flying again. For many, lightly spiced biscoffs are a culinary comfort, and the little cookies lead to obsessive thoughts and discussions.

Honor Sachs, a professor of early American history in Colorado, is a fan of Biscoff cookies.


Susan Lee Johnson

The emotions surrounding this cookie are so strong that it has caused controversy on two continents. In the United States, United Airlines removed biscotti from its flights last year, sparking outrage before the airline said it would continue to serve them.

What many American Biscoff fans don’t know is that they live a parallel life in parts of Europe, around Belgium, where they are called speculaas. Biscoff is a brand created for the United States by the Belgian family company Lotus Bakeries.

Delta Air Lines

started servicing them in the ’80s. Today, Delta claims to issue more than 80 million such notes each year, with the logo embedded in the paste.

Speculoos wasn’t exactly an attractive international name, says Ian Boone, CEO of Lotus. His father and an American Lotus distributor had the idea that Biscoff, a bag of cookies with coffee, would be better for American ears than Spekulatius or its Dutch equivalent, Speculoos. Both names are in the public domain, while Biscoff can be patented.

Now Europeans are revolting over the fact that Lotus recently changed the name Biscoff to cultural icon in Belgium, France and the Netherlands.

For us it’s not a brand, says Samuel James, a Belgian sous-chef. Renaming cookies is totally inappropriate, he says.

Biscoff cookies are a popular snack on airplanes.


Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Mathieu Flaig, a digital strategy consultant who grew up in northern France, says speculoos remind him of times spent with his grandparents, who always had them in the house. From a marketing perspective, he understands the logic of a global brand. But the changes, he said, run counter to our nostalgia and make it seem like part of our history will disappear.

Mr Boone, CEO of Cookies, said the need for such an initiative was due to today’s borderless world and social media. It was the topic of discussion when the announcement of Lotus’ plans dominated the local news last fall. The hashtag #jesuisspeculoos-I’m speculoos has become trending.

There has been a lot of hype around this issue, Bennett said. Boone, sitting between packs of cookies and snacks in his office in Lembeck, Belgium.

The Belgian media hype mirrors the caution of American travelers. Like

American Airlines

recently replaced his usual two packets of cookies on some flights with two slightly smaller, individually wrapped Biscoffs, caught airline bloggers’ eye. A US spokesman said it was only a temporary supply chain solution in the event of a pandemic.

Early last year, before the coronavirus pandemic, United said it would replace the Biscoffs with boxes of Oreos.

You can have my foot space, but never my Biscoffs, reads the headline on the Eater website.

Delta claims to distribute over 80 million Biscoffs each year with its own logo in the dough.


Siska Gremmelpres/Belga/ZUMA PRESS

The pilot’s reaction surprised United. Our customers have made it clear how much they like Biscoff cookies, says a spokeswoman. She said it was always intended that the cookie exemption would be temporary, but the feedback we received confirmed our customers’ passion for our snacks.

Houston’s Caroline Matlock says Biscoff’s availability at United has strengthened her loyalty. Previously, she complained that she could only get them on Delta flights, which have fewer flights through Houston.

When she saw Biscoffs in her snack bag on a United flight this year, she said: I thought so: This is the greatest moment of my life.

On a recent flight, when Matlock saw that her fellow passengers were asleep, she shamelessly grabbed their snack bags, which contained Biscoffs. I put them slowly and secretly in my pocket and said nothing, she admits.

United also ran into trouble in 2018 when it briefly stopped shipping its other main snack, a soft, caramel-filled bun called Stroopwafels from neighboring Belgium. The name means waffle with syrup.

Sir, I want to thank you for your support. Boone, who doesn’t make syrup waffles but loves them, understands American reactions because he went to high school in the Chicago area for a year. When he talks on American flights today and mentions that he is the man behind the cookies, he is treated like a minor celebrity.

People wanted to take selfies with me, he says. What I like about Americans is their enthusiasm.

Biscoff is a brand created for the United States by Lotus Bakeries, a Belgian family business.


Dinah Le Lardic/Isopix/ZUMA Press

All this attention is an unusual display for a snack that is as common in Belgium as chocolate chip cookies are in America. Spekulatius, originally a Christmas treat, is now regularly served with coffee in Belgian cafés. Dutch specula sometimes have the shape of a windmill.

Europe is way ahead of us, says Joey Lusvardi, a Minneapolis health worker whose fear of flying was dispelled by Biscoff cookies. Apparently, I have to move to Europe.

Biscoffs are sold in select grocery stores in the U.S., and the company is expanding its reach. Matlock, of Houston, says she doesn’t buy Biscoffs at the store because they represent air travel.

Comedian Roy Wood Jr. is happy to be performing again, but he’s not happy about the return of planes, which he considers a necessary evil. He says one thing helps him get back on board: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting Biscoff cookies.

Sir, I want to thank you for your support. Mr. Wood, who wrote an essay on aviation and Biscoffs for the Wall Street Journal last year, says his son calls Biscoffs takeoff cookies. After the trip, the comedian tried to surprise her with a package from the plane, but was turned down.

It’s for the plane, her son said, handing back the unopened bag. You shouldn’t have any.

Email Daniel Michaels at [email protected] and Alison Sider at [email protected].

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