Cookies are a bakery treat that fit in many places—solo snacking sessions, birthdays, and special occasions, tucked into lunchboxes for school or work consumption, and more. This flexibility is one of the many reasons U.S. consumers continue to add all types of cookies to their shopping carts. While sales are down in some subcategories, figures indicate producers that offer the flavors, packaging formats, and BFY benefits consumers want will continue holding their interest.

Market data

Perimeter cookie sales had a bit of a boost—with many bakery categories and subcategories dipping slightly, this column saw a modest climb in unit sales (0.2%) and a slightly chunkier increase in dollar sales (3.8%) for the 12-month period ending April 1, 2024, according to data from Circana (Chicago). These increases brought the subcategory to $2.7 billion for the period. Divisions within the subcategory had highs and lows, with the top performer, perimeter traditional cookies, seeing a sales increase of 6.7% over the previous period, bringing the total figure to $1.8 billion. The top sellers in the subcategory were private-label producers, with the lion’s share of the subcategory ($1.6 billion); Alyssa’s Bakery ($29.7 million); and Treehouse Foods ($8.7 million).

Center-store cookies brought in dollar sales 5.4% higher than the previous 52-week period, reaching $1.1 billion in sales; that subcategory saw unit sales down somewhat, with a decrease of 4.6%. Traditional c-store cookies brought in $892.2 million in sales, a not-too-shabby increase in dollar sales compared to the previous period. However, the c-store iced/frosted cookies subcategory climbed by 8%, higher than most subcategories, with a 12-month total of $155.8 million—leaders in that subcategory included McKee Foods ($119.8 million, up 1%), Chattanooga Bakery ($28.3 million, down 4.3%), and Grupo Bimbo ($2.3 million, a notable downturn of 32.8%).

Consumers apparently are cooling on cookie dough purchases; the subcategory declined 20.4% to reach $30.2 million. Subcategory leader Ben & Jerry’s took in $15.9 million, a 31.9% drop over the previous period; however, frozen dough brand Doughp, while bringing in just $548,157 in sales, enjoyed a 48.4% increase for the previous period, perhaps making the company one to watch for the next 12 months.

Looking back

Paul Stippich, marketing director, Otis Spunkmeyer (an Aspire Bakeries brand), says he believes cookies are having a bit of a renaissance with consumers for a number of reasons. 

“There has been a resurgence of interest in the cookie category as a result of consumer desire for ‘new-stalgia’ and reaching for their favorite foods with modern twists,” he remarks. “This has fueled Otis Spunkmeyer’s growth with new customers, ultimately delivering high quality sweet-baked goods to more consumers. We continue to innovate with new flavors and inclusions, helping our customers keep their offerings fresh.”

The Otis Spunkmeyer brand saw a number of launches in recent months. According to Stippich, these include an Apple Cinnamon Oat Cookie, a Double Chocolate Caramel Cookie, and a Red Velvet Cookie for in-store bakeries

Chris Balach, vice president of marketing for sweet baked snacks with J.M. Smucker Co., relates consumers increasingly seek treats that can satisfy sweet cravings with less sugar.

“Another notable trend we’ve seen is the growing demand for reduced sugar snacks that don’t sacrifice on taste or flavor,” he shares. “In response to this, our Voortman brand has been innovating to provide delicious snacks that cater to this growing demographic, while still delivering the same great taste consumers expect. Voortman is the No. 1 zero sugar cookie brand and the No. 1 zero sugar wafer brand in the U.S. And earlier this year we launched a new line of reduced sugar cookies, Voortman Perfectly Sweet cookies.”

partake vanilla wafers
Courtesy of Partake Foods

Better-for-you brands like Partake Foods are seeing success, thanks to consumer interest in low- and no-added-sugar products, steering clear of major allergens, and other BFY lanes. Partake founder Denise Woodard states her brand seeks to offer such cookies that offer more than just a healthy label.

“With all of our new products and flavors, we have two main goals: delicious and inclusive,” she states. “Our recent launch of our Mini Graham Crackers & Vanilla Wafers is a testament to our commitment to making allergy-friendly options that are meaningful—versatile, nostalgic, and appeal to everyone, whether or not they have food allergies. We also recently continued our collaboration with Marvel recently by introducing our Super Hero Sprinkle mini cookies now featuring Spidey and His Amazing Friends.”

Stippich adds that cookie products continue to resonate with consumers as a treat—what’s more, foodservice operators turn to the category for their many uses.

Partake - cookies
Courtesy of Partake Foods

“Cookies have remained one of the most versatile and desirable sweet baked goods operators can have on their menu,” Stippich points out. “While cookies are always great to serve as-is, chefs and operators are customizing them with decorations and easy recipe applications, providing a signature touch to a classic dessert.” 

Stippich adds frozen cookie dough also attracts the attention of other producers and foodservice operators for its versatility—molded into unconventional shapes, shaped into dessert crusts, and more.

Looking forward

Stippich advises Otis Spunkmeyer plans at least one notable launch in the cookie category to watch out for.

“Otis Spunkmeyer is adding a Lemon Burst Cookie to its Sweet Discovery lineup,” he says. “The cookie has a delicately balanced, sweet-tart flavor that’s perfect for the summer season. Made with the real zest of California-grown tree-ripened lemons, this unique cookie is sure to be a success for the in-store bakery.”

Woodard shares that Partake Foods’s upcoming announcements include a partnership with a major airline: “We are so excited to bring our Classic Grahams to JetBlue, Find them on your next flight. Outside of that, we’re always under the hood.” 

chips ahoy cookies
Courtesy of Mondelēz International

Partake is not the only producer that is out to provide consumers with food allergies and sensitivities with cookies they can safely enjoy. Mondelēz International (who recently gave celiacs something to celebrate with gluten-free Golden Oreos) is coming out with a GF version of another popular cookie brand this spring. 

"When we set out to create our first Chips Ahoy! Gluten Free cookie, we didn’t want it to be a good gluten free cookie, we wanted it to be a great cookie that’s also gluten free,” says Jainette Quinones, brand manager, Chips Ahoy! Innovation. “I am proud to say that our innovation team has succeeded; the new Chips Ahoy! Gluten Free cookie is an absolutely delicious cookie that everyone can enjoy.”

Though choosing to keep details under wraps, Balach says consumers and market watchers should expect innovations in cookies and other categories from J.M. Smucker brands as well.

“We always have exciting new snacks in our innovation pipeline, so stay tuned.”