Why are there HEB-brand digestives?
October 2, 2014 6:51 PM   Subscribe

I recently moved to Austin and have discovered that HEB sells store brand digestive biscuits--a "European-style" digestive, which tastes like it has too much butter in, and an "oatmeal digestive" which is like the offspring of a digestive and a hobnob. Is there something I don't know about HEB or Central Texas that would explain the only non-imported digestives I've seen in the US?

Some HEB locations also sell cookies imported from the Netherlands under a brand I've never heard of, which has chocolate digestives (though they're not called that) and what can best be described as berry-flavored Garibaldi biscuits (but they're a bit too crunchy for Garibaldi biscuits). I've been in a couple of different HEBs and only one of them sold McVitie's digestives, so it's not like they're offering a store brand in competition with the name brand. The only thing I can think of is that I'm unaware of a great digestive biscuit culture in Central Europe, but I'm pretty sure that's not it.
posted by hoyland to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are these from HEB's Central Market brand? If so, part of the answer may be that they are from a line aimed at a more upscale/affluent consumer, and European-style products may be particularly appealing to that group. The Central Market stores are basically HEB's answer to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, for what it's worth.
posted by Cecilia Rose at 7:02 PM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm tempted to say that it's less about digestive biscuits being a traditional thing in Central Texas (they aren't AFAIK) and more about HEB having a weirdly diverse range of stuff that they sell. Like, they aren't necessarily all that upscale — but they do consistently seem to have more variety than I'd expect from Kroger or Giant Eagle or other chain groceries in other places I've lived. Even more so at Central Market, like Cecilia Rose says, but even run-of-the-mill HEB stores are like that compared to what I'm used to.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:07 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Texas is a cosmopolitan place, and HEB is a Texas-based grocery store chain. Maybe Austin not so much, but Houston and Dallas have a lot of visitors from other countries, some long-term. If HEB is already producing them for those markets, why not stock them in Austin too?
posted by lefty lucky cat at 7:47 PM on October 2, 2014

Yeah, if you're not talking about central market then I think you must have been visiting some of the new/newly remodeled HEBs that carry a small selection of similar "foreign" foods. I have definitely bought digestives from the Central Market at 38th that were the same brand I bought on Irerland.
posted by theweasel at 7:48 PM on October 2, 2014

Maybe there's enough of a German population still in San Antonio (or, at least people who developed a taste for digestive biscuits) that HEB decided it was more cost-effective to manufacture them themselves rather than import them?
posted by acidic at 7:56 PM on October 2, 2014

more about HEB having a weirdly diverse range of stuff that they sell

I think that's the more likely explanation. I joke with my San Antonio relatives about HEB selling everything.
posted by gimonca at 8:56 PM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: They're HEB branded in HEB, not Central Market. I was in a bigger/newer HEB that also had McVitie's digestives (and Branston pickle), but they don't seem to be a high priority item for the British shelf of the import aisle since other HEBs don't have them.

As far as I know, Germans don't have digestive biscuits. If they were a German or Czech thing, that would be the natural explanation.
posted by hoyland at 1:23 AM on October 3, 2014

Call them and ask. In my experience, HEB's customer service, at least on a corporate level, has always been fantastic. Maybe a popular brand was discontinued or something.

San Antonio, Texas 210-938-8357
Toll-free number 1-800-432-3113
Customer Relations office hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
posted by headless at 2:03 AM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are they more like a Maria biscuit? They are sort of like digestives and much cheaper. In the Philly area you can buy them in the Hispanic section of the grocery store.
posted by interplanetjanet at 6:34 AM on October 3, 2014

I've noticed these lately as well, and all I can say is that I find the HEB instore brand products to be eerily on trend. So maybe there is just a food trend for digestives right now that they want to capitalize on. My second thought would be to echo interplanetjane and say that it might be their twist on the very popular and very cheap Goya Maria biscuits.
posted by megancita at 7:28 AM on October 3, 2014

I think HEB must have some incredible way of gathering info on customers and their choices, because they've always had really random products. The HEB near my parents house has always responded really fast to population changes. Their area used to be mostly Mexican-American but has in the last five years or so has had a growing number of people from Africa, the Middle East, and India - and the store completely reflects that now. There's halal food, Indian entrees, all sorts of spices I'd never seen there before, etc. As for the digestive biscuits, they've had some brand or other for as long as I can remember (20+ years) in the 'British Imports' section - also featuring baked beans, wine gums, and Yorkshire Tea. My mother has it in for HEB because she thinks they have a monopoly on the food market in San Antonio and kind of passed that animus on to me, but after shopping at many grocery stores abroad and in other parts of the USA I've come to think that it's a pretty cool store that tries to cater to all sorts of tastes.

TL;DR: HEB noticed there was a market for digestives and got in on the game.
posted by Partario at 11:24 AM on October 3, 2014

Response by poster: Further investigation of the cookie aisle has shown that there are HEB-brand Maria biscuits, so that's not it.
posted by hoyland at 6:25 PM on November 11, 2014

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