For four decades, Tate’s Bake Shop has grown a reputation for its ultra-thin, crispy cookies. As the company has grown and reached retail shelves across the country, the brand has strived to innovate and offer both its loyal buyers and new customers a variety of tasty treats.
The latest Tate’s Bake Shop product is Cookie Bark—the indulgent product takes pieces of the brand’s signature cookies and enrobes them in creamy chocolate. To learn more about the new release as well as the company’s philosophy and practices around innovation, Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery connected with Liz Eddy, innovation director.
Jenni Spinner: Could you please share the story of Tate’s Bake Shop’s beginnings?
Liz Eddy: Tate’s Bake Shop was started by Kathleen King when she was 11 years old, baking cookies to sell at her parents’ farm stand that was in Southampton, NY, with a love of baking and dedication to quality. She was making these crisp, buttery cookies, which were legendary on Long Island, but even beyond that. Now, you can find Tate’s Bake Shop Cookies across the country. We have a national following and we’ve been delighting consumers for 20 years.
Another thing that's really cool is we're one of the fastest-growing cookie brands in the U.S. We're known for our signature thin and crispy cookie, using simple, authentic, and high-quality ingredients. Over the years, we've been focusing on innovation and extended beyond the traditional cookies. We launched gluten-free back in 2010. We launched vegan just a couple of years ago and 21. We also have seasonal, limited-offering flavors that come out every year. And most recently, our big launch was good, which we're here to talk about today. So yeah, it's a great story.
With some of the cookies in these spaces, like gluten-free or vegan, there are a number of offerings. What we found is often there really aren’t many high-quality or delicious products in those spaces. Vegan was one of the first products that I launched after joining the brand, and we wanted to make sure that not only were we developing a vegan cookie, but that we were doing so in a way that’s also delicious, that it’s not a compromise cookie. We spent a lot of time working on gluten-free and vegan, making sure we have high-quality delicious cookies that taste normal, like a non-gluten-free or non-vegan cookie.
JS: How do how does the Tate's Bake Shop team keep on top of current and emerging consumer trends and use those to inform what's next for you?
LE: I lead innovation at Tate’s, and I spend a lot of time just going to trade shows and looking at trends in the marketplace, whether those are flavor trends, packaging trends, or what have you. Sometimes I look for clues outside of the cookie category, too. For example, I'm looking to see what's happening in ice cream, because ice cream is such a big space. There are a lot of new and exciting flavor trends that hit so what are those trends and how would they work in cookies? A lot of what I do is just keeping my eyes and ears on the ground--going to trade shows, anytime I go into a grocery store, I'm working. What are the new flavors? Will this work in a cookie? There are specific flavor trends that are growing in the market –usually not in cookies because we want to be the first to get these new trends in cookies. How do we bring those cookies in a delicious way?
JS: The newest product is Tate’s Bake Shop Cookie Bark. How did the Cookie Bark go from brainchild to retail launch?
LE: The team was looking at our cookie. We have this rich, buttery, delicious chocolate chip cookie that’s our flagship. We were thinking, How could we take this to the next level and make it even more indulgent? How do we add some chocolate and make sure it's the right ratio and everything? Then, we were thinking, How do people want to consume this product? Do we just put chocolate on our cookies? What we ended up doing is making these bite-sized pieces of Tate’s cookies that are covered in chocolate and making them snackable. From there, we asked, How do we make it the best possible product?
We tried a lot of different ratios of chocolate to cookie, and a lot of consumer testing to make sure we really nailed it. What you’ll find is that the cookie really is the hero of the product. You still get that delicious chocolate chip cookie, that buttery cookie, but we’re taking it to the next level of indulgence with a layer of chocolate on top. Then, we knew that people have preferences when it comes to chocolate; some people prefer milk chocolate, and others prefer dark chocolate. We wanted to make sure that at launch, we had one of each to meet everybody's preferences.
The rest is history. It’s out on the market, and we’re getting great response from people who are trying the product, and there are great ratings and reviews if you look online. I've had people call me who I haven't spoken with in a long time to be like, “It's so good and I can't stop eating it.” It’s been a big success. People are just loving it.
JS: What about other launches and innovations? Please share what you can about the vegan cookies, seasonal offerings, and other items.
LE: Vegan was one of the first products that I launched after joining Tate’s. We found a lot of people are looking for vegan products, even if they're not strictly vegan. Meatless Monday, for example, is a big trend. We wanted to make sure that if we were going to launch a product, that it was no compromises, and that it really tastes delicious so that even someone who's not vegan would enjoy the experience of eating that cookie. We spent a lot of time working on the recipe and making sure that we got it right. We decided to launch in two flavors: chocolate chip because that's our flagship, and vanilla maple. Personally, I love the vanilla maple; it's one of my favorite cookies in our whole portfolio, and it won a People magazine award for the best plant-based cookie in 2022.
Then, we’re always looking at seasonals. We do a lot of flavor trend work when we're identifying what are the best seasonal flavors that we should be launching. We have fan favorites that come back every year; a good example of that is ginger snap. We know people look for it year after year, and so it'll come back every year. For some other seasons, especially spring and summer, we like to play new flavors that can surprise and delight our loyal fans and interest people. Last year we launched a pumpkin spice in the fall. Of course, there's tons of pumpkin spice in the marketplace, but what we found is it was one of the best-selling seasonal items we had ever launched.
We're always looking at flavor trends, and one really big one that we identified is salted caramel chocolate chip. Right now, our spring seasonal flavor is a salted caramel chocolate chip—that’s one of our limited editions, buy it while you can.
JS: Are there any other products you’re looking into launching that you might be able to talk about?
LE: We're always looking at what we should be launching, and staying on top of trends, whether it's flavor trends, packaging trends, and really identifying what those new flavors and other products could be. Right now we're looking at a three- to five-year landscape just trying to think through everything that we should be launching. Right now, we’re focusing a lot on flavors for 2024 and beyond. We’re focused on flavors for the moment, and with Cookie Bark, what should the next flavor be? We’re doing some research in that space as well, because it's already off to such a fast start, that we know we'll be expanding that line of products, just based on how it's already performing.
A little more than a year ago, we launched a single-serve pack of two cookies. We call that the on-the-go pack, and you tend to find it more in convenience stores or gas stations. In terms of a convenience pack, Cookie Bark is really good for it. We looked at not just a bag of cookies with individually wrapped trays of cookies inside but it's a resealable, snackable pouch. I am trying to think through how we can better leverage that type of packaging if we launch other items that are really snackable or munchable in the future.