• Consumers look for tasty, healthy cookies
  • Category is up in sales
  • Innovation is key

Cookie conundrum

Consumers search for products that are tasty, but also include healthy ingredients.

Neal Lorenzi, Contributing Writer

Cookies are ubiquitous. They appear in many areas of the store, from the classic cookies and snack aisle, to the bakery aisle, the in-store fresh bakery, as ready-to-bake items in the refrigerated area, and even cookie dough in the frozen food section. To fill this wide-ranging niche, cookie producers continue to innovate as they strive to meet demand for products that taste good and feature healthy ingredients.



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Market data 
Sales in the cookie category increased 5.1 percent to $8.2 billion over the past 52 weeks ending April 14, 2022, according to IRI, Chicago. Nabisco Cookies represented the largest portion of that segment at $3.4 billion, up 1.4 percent. Pepperidge Farm sales held nearly steady at $5.7 million. Solid increases were shown by Voortman Bakery (20.8%), Tates Bake Shop (29.1%), and Marinela Cookies (17.2%). Lenny & Larry’s enjoyed a 12 percent increase in sales.

The perimeter cookies segment reported an 18 percent increase to $2.2 billion. Best Express Foods showed the biggest percentage gain in that segment, up 194 percent to $12.3 million. Sakes in the perimeter iced/frosted cookies segment increased 19.8 percent to $330 million, where Mondelēz International posted a 46.4 percent gain to $20.1 million. The refrigerated cookie dough/brownie dough segment fell 8 percent to $2.3 billion.

Looking back 
Sales of cookies across all areas of the store jumped early in the pandemic and they continue to track well today, according to Anne-Marie Roerink, president of 210 Analytics LLC, San Antonio, TX, who notes that cookies have done a phenomenal job of responding to consumers’ interest in customization and crafts.

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Source: IRI, Chicago, Total U.S. Multi-Outlet w/ C-Store (Supermarkets, Drugstores, Mass Market Retailers, Gas/C-Stores, Military Commissaries and Select Club & Dollar Retail Chains), Latest 52 Weeks Ending April 18, 2021.


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Source: IRI Market Advantage, Integrated Fresh,  Total U.S. - Multi Outlet w/ C-Store (Grocery, Drug, Mass Market, Convenience, Military and Select Club & Dollar Retailers), 52 Weeks Ending 03-20-22

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Courtesy of Conagra

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“Cookie kits complete with icing and decorative candies are popping up as pre-made kits, but also in the fresh bakery, using leftover icing, for instance,” Roerink says. “I’ve noticed DIY decorating kits for big holidays such as Easter or Christmas, and for micro occasions such as local sports team events. Some retailers are even developing their own holidays. Scratch baking was very big during the early months of the pandemic, and by offering these kits, the cookie aisle/bakery department wins as does the consumer.”

Healthy cookie trends include the use of keto as an ingredient. Conagra’s cookie business, which branches across two brands–Duncan Hines and Glutino–focuses on modern health and wellness trends. “The keto diet continues to define the health and wellness space,” says Annalise Winters, associate brand manager, Duncan Hines. “In 2021, total keto sweets sales reached $213 million, up 113 percent from year ago.” Duncan Hines debuted in the keto-friendly sweets space with the introduction of single-serve cake cups in 2020, and cake and brownie mixes in 2021. This year, the company introduced a keto-Friendly Chocolate Chip Cookie mix and single-serve keto Friendly Chocolate Chip Cookie cups.

Equally important has been the rise in consumers seeking gluten-free products, adds Steven Cheng, associate brand manager for Glutino. “Our Glutino brand focuses on delivering great tasting gluten-free products, and our cookie line offers a wide variety, including chocolate chip cookies, chocolate vanilla and vanilla crème cookies, animal crackers, and vanilla, milk chocolate and lemon wafers. The Glutino brand, which specializes in gluten-free food products, was founded in 1999.

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Lenny & Larry’s, Los Angeles, introduced a variety of products, including The Complete Cookie-Fied Bar and a newly reformulated version of The Keto Cookie, while reintroducing The Complete Cremes for national distribution. “As we emerge from the pandemic and consumers are putting more emphasis on the importance of healthy eating, our line of better-for-you cookies with plant-based protein and fiber is experiencing tremendous growth,” says CEO Jolie Weber.

The Complete Cookie-fied Bar is a soft and chewy bar topped with Lenny & Larry’s crunchy cookie pieces, so it offers a unique texture and snacking experience, according to Weber. “Made with 12-g plant-based protein, 5g prebiotic fiber and only 6g sugar, it’s the perfect size for on-the-go snacking. It’s also gluten-free.” The bar is available in three flavors: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Almond Sea Salt, and Cookies & Creme.

Courtesy of Lenny & Larry's

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Courtesy of Mondelēz International

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On the more indulgent side, Mondelēz International Inc., Chicago, is celebrating the 110th birthday of OREO cookies--teaming up with chefs and restaurants across the country to create limited time offers that showcase the iconic cookie in a variety of ways, ranging from sundaes to cakes. One example: This year, TGI Fridays introduced OREO Madness Fully Stuffed giant OREO cookies with Cookies & Cream ice cream, coated in red and white sprinkles, served with chocolate sauce and a fresh strawberry.

Mondelēz International also introduced the OREO Chocolate Confetti Cake Cookie, the first limited-edition cookie to feature rainbow sprinkles both in and on the cookie. The creme filling features two layers–the signature creme filled with sprinkles, plus a rich chocolate cake-flavored creme. The company also introduced OREO Frozen Treats, which reimagine the classic chocolate sandwich cookie into products ranging from scoopable tubs to snackable bars, cones and sandwiches. Nutter Butter Cakesters, another addition to the line, are made with peanut butter filling sandwiched between two soft snack cakes.

Flavors supplier Gold Coast Ingredients, Commerce, CA, has introduced a Cookies, Cream & Things line with new flavors such as red velvet, marshmallow, peanut butter, birthday cake, coconut, chai, caramel, coffee, mint and berries. The flavors are available all-natural and in powder and liquid forms, and can be customized to meet allergen-free and non-GMO requirements.

Cookie dough is another area of innovations. Ben & Jerry’s, South Burlington, VT, launched its Cookie Dough Chunks a few years ago in response to requests by consumers who loved the gobs of buttery chocolate chip cookie dough found in its pints of ice cream. There are now nine flavors, featuring heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs to ensure a safe, snackable experience. Cookie Dough Chunks can be found in the frozen section of grocery and convenience stores.

“Our Snackable Cookie Doughs are for fans of raw cookie dough looking for a convenient treat,” says Dena Wimette, Ben & Jerry’s head of innovation. “You don’t have to mix up a batch of dough; instead you can pour out a few chunks for a quick snack. This brings cookie dough into the freezer section and makes it an alternative to an ice cream sandwich or cone. We have dough in large and small sizes to share or for multiple-serving moments as well as on-the-go occasions. Our Snackable Dough comes in pouches much like other snacky food.”

Looking forward 
Looking ahead, Roerink sees more limited-time offers in the cookie category, which is a good strategy for driving impulse purchases, and to take some pressure off the supply chain. Surprise and delight is a tactic that works very well for emotional categories such as bakery, she notes.

“I also think we’re going to see more development in the size of cookies as well as the size of packages—in light of both health and wellness (enjoy, but in moderation) and inflation to make sure the per-unit price remains within budget,” Roerink says. “Line extensions remain popular and that is a great strategy amid supply chain disruption and high inflation. Consumers are more likely to stick with the familiar, but are always looking for a new twist to an old favorite.”

“Our Snackable Cookie Doughs are for fans of raw cookie dough looking for a convenient treat. You don’t have to mix up a batch of dough; instead you can pour out a few chunks for a quick snack.”

— Dena Wimette, head of innovation, Ben & Jerry’s

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Courtesy of Unilever - Ben & Jerry's

As keto-friendly and gluten-free continue to rise in popularity, there will be more opportunity to reach these consumers with innovative cookie products, Winters predicts. “Cookies are a very competitive space, so we know there is a challenge with standing out in the field, but we are pleased and optimistic with what our Duncan Hines and Glutino have to offer.”

Lenny & Larry’s target consumers are looking for smaller, individually wrapped snacks, according to Weber. “Smaller sizes not only help consumers keep on track of their efforts to eat healthier, but they also are portable and easier for on-the-go snacking. Some cookie brands have met this need, but there is still opportunity for growth here.” SF&WB

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