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Smart Cookies Bake in Profits with Menu Innovation

May 2018 Dessert Trends - Smart Cookies

55% of survey participants say chocolate chip cookies are their favorite baked good, 39% prefer chocolate cookies and 31% favor peanut butter cookies.1

Cookies have long been a reliable source of dough for foodservice operators, and 2018 is poised to serve up sweet sales for the cookie-savvy. Seventy percent of consumers surveyed say they eat cookies at least once a week, according to research from the holiday calendar website National Today.2 Last year, cookies gobbled up $7,501,547,520 in sales in the 52 weeks ended July 9, reported the market research firm, Information Resources, Inc.3

Reimagining cookies for a millennial market that hankers after new flavor experiences will be a key driver of innovation on dessert menus in 2018. While there’s no denying the popularity of this versatile foodservice staple, cookies are a crowded category, and to crush sales in the new year, operators will need to combine brand-name recognition with fresh approaches.

Brands matter, and big brands mean big sales. The statistics database Statista reports that the top ten best-selling cookie brands in 2017 included OREO, CHIPS AHOY! and NILLA.4 Among the top three were OREO, followed by CHIPS AHOY! 4

What’s more, according to data from the global foodservice research firm Technomic, OREO is the #1 brand on Top 500 dessert menus per operator incidence and leads the pack among millennials surveyed.5 And 44% of consumers surveyed find OREO appealing as a dessert ingredient.5 Given OREO’s brand recognition and favored status among consumers, it makes an ideal mix-in or topping for inventive combos and mashups of baked goods and ice cream.

A Batch of Smart Ideas: Keeping Cookie Sales from Crumbling

Major chains are making the most of OREO’s versatility and mass market appeal. Last year, Sonic Drive-Ins introduced a limited run Custard Concrete featuring OREO cookie pieces, and Baskin-Robbins promoted OREO Cheesecake ice cream as its August flavor of the month. In addition to offering an OREO Fudge Stacker and Loaded Shake, Checkers and Rally’s leverages another top-selling cookie brand, with NILLA versions of the same rich, flavor-packed desserts.

In last year’s Flavor Consumer Trend Report, Technomic’s survey sampling went nuts for peanut butter cookie flavor.6 And yet the flavor is only available at 5% of all Top 500 chains,6 opening up opportunities for foodservice operators to tap into an underserved market with a time-honored brand like NUTTER BUTTER cookies.

While consumers may savor the flavor experiences that cookies provide, they still want to feel good about the food they consume. With 29% of consumers saying they are increasingly eating healthier desserts,7 expect better-for-you cookie trends to continue to pick up momentum, including edible cookie dough made without eggs or with pasteurized eggs for food safety, and vegan, allergen-free and energy-boosting cookie varieties.

Given their versatility and variety, cookies are classics that lend themselves easily to reinvention. Smart cookies will bake more innovation into the category to help make profits rise in the new year.

1 Technomic, Dessert Consumer Trend Report, 2017, p. 89
2 Kang, Anna, “13 ways to drive business on National Cookie Day,” Nation’s Restaurant News, Nov. 30, 2017
3 Schroeder, Eric, “Trends driving the cookie category,” Food Business News, Sept. 1, 2017.
4 Statista, Dollar sales of the leading cookie brands of the United States in 2017 (in million U.S. dollars), 2018
5 Mills, Anne and Yonke, Brett, Dessert Consumer Trend Report: Custom Webinar, Technomic, 2017, p. 27
6 Technomic, Flavor Consumer Trend Report, 2017, p. 112
7 Technomic, Dessert Consumer Trend Report, 2017, p.11

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