In today’s grab-and-go world, every bite counts. Consumers are snacking more than ever now, and when snacking replaces mealtimes, they are looking for something easy, delicious and nutritious—products that often have “simple” ingredients as cornerstones.

“Consumer demand for foods that have a positive impact on health, including functional foods, is greater than ever,” says Matt Duffy, director of marketing, Nonni’s Foods LLC, Tulsa, OK. “Consumers are seeking cookies with added nutritional value, like fiber and protein.” The company’s new THINaddictives, thin, crunchy, almond-based cookies, are available in Cranberry Almond, Pistachio Almond, Cinnamon Raisin Almond, Blueberry Oat Almond, Banana Dark Chocolate Almond and Mango Coconut Almond.

Duffy notes that customers love the products’ high quality and use of “real” ingredients, such as wheat flour, milk chocolate, butter and eggs. “It’s these ingredients that give our biscotti a light, crunchy texture that is delicately sweet and resembles that homemade taste you’d get from your own kitchen.”

Even when using the best ingredients, moderation is key when it comes to snacking. Nonni’s offers its THINaddictives in pre-portioned packs averaging 100 calories or less. In addition, its flagship biscotti now comes in a bite-size version. Biscotti Bites are available in Almond Dark Chocolate, Very Berry Almond and Double Chocolate Salted Caramel.

Easy-to-understand ingredients also are a major part of the philosophy espoused by The Christie Cookie Co., Nashville, TN, which focuses on delivering flavor trends like sweet-and-savory. Tony Schmidt, corporate chef and Southeast regional sales manager for the company, notes that their products are formulated with butter and no added preservatives. “With the current shift in food being products with no preservatives, artificial food dyes or artificial flavorings, Christie Cookie can continue to offer customers the same product we have since 1983, as we have never substituted butter for margarines or oils,” he says.

The company recently refreshed its brand to reflect its Southern heritage and as a supplier of handcrafted baked goods in the consumer and foodservice sectors. Some may not realize that Christie Cookie is the purveyor of the cookies offered by DoubleTree by Hilton when guests check into the hotels nationwide. Consumers can also purchase that same walnut-chocolate-chip cookie online to enjoy at home. Other varieties available at retail are Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin and White Chocolate Macadamia Nut.

Most cookie manufacturers realize they’re creating a treat, rather than a staple of a well-balanced diet. But value can come from tempered degrees of indulgence.

“I love to eat a little something sweet every day, but also would never eat a cookie with 18 g. of fat and more than 5 teaspoons of sugar,” says Shira Berk, CEO, Goodie Girl Tribeca, New York, noting that the company’s tagline is, “Just the right amount of wrong.”

The company’s gluten-free cookies come in Quinoa Chocolate Chip, Mint Slims, Crunchy Chaos, Midnight Brownie and Oatmeal Raisin, and have about 60 calories and 3 g. of fat per serving. “People are always looking for ways to feel less guilty about their indulgences,” says Berk.

The cookies are available in 6-oz. zippered pouches sporting a kitschy look, thanks to Berk’s previous experience in the magazine and record industries. “I wanted the Goodie Girl packaging to make people stop and feel something,” she explains. “I found this amazing photo of a girl from the 1950s that just captured my attention as being a little mischievous—like she got caught with her hand in the cookie jar.” So she reshot the photo, used on product packaging and the website, featuring her daughter.

Cookies for kids

While new flavors are exciting, consumers—especially parents—are looking for simple, better-for-you snacks they can feel good about giving their kids.

“Consumers are becoming more health-conscious and shying away from artificial ingredients and added sugars, which can be plentiful when it comes to sweet treats like cookies,” states Lizzie Bell, senior associate brand manager, Barbara’s Bakery Inc., Marlborough, MA. She notes that the company’s Snackimals Cookies don’t include hydrogenated oil, high-fructose corn syrup or refined white sugar. They’re available in Vanilla, Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate and Peanut Butter and have as few as 100 calories and 4 g. of fat per serving.

So what’s next for these animal-shaped cookies? Bell notes that the company is working to include more whole grains without impacting the flavor profile.

Creating a cookie that appeals to kids and gets parental approval is key in this product segment. MySuperFoods Co., Summit, NJ, is the new kid on the block searching to provide a nutritional snack to the post-toddler children’s segment. “There is still a gap between baby food and kids’ food in terms of quality,” states Katie Jesionowski, co-founder of the company. “There are several great players in the baby food space, making it easy for parents to buy and serve high-quality first and second foods. Once children outgrow that food, parents are thrust in a sea of artificial additives, preservatives and colors.”

The company’s MySuperCookies Heroes are organic, non-GMO, nut-free and whole-grain, with each serving containing 18 g. of whole grains. Available flavors are Honey, Blueberry Vanilla and Chocolate.

The brand tries to help kids (and parents) make nutritionally informed choices via a team of SuperKids, present on all MySuperFoods packaging. Each SuperKid represents an aspect of nutrition and is meant to help teach kids about how to best feed their growing bodies.

Decadent delights

While some cookie manufacturers are making products with better-for-you ingredients or that are properly portioned, others have decided it’s better to go big or go home. Calabasas Cake & Cookie Co., Calabasas, CA, is home to The Ultimate STUFT Cookie, a premium, quarter-pound, indulgent cookie with a surprise inside.

“I came up with this great idea after 30 years of working in corporate America,” says Marlene Luterman, founder and “top cookie” of the company. “I decided to take the leap and put my creations to work. I recognized that there was a need for some innovation in the upscale cookie market, and I wanted to fill this gap with a high-end, indulgent product.”

STUFT cookies come in Chocolate Chip Cookie STUFT with Fudge Brownie, Confetti Cookie STUFT with Birthday Cake, Fudge Brownie Cookie STUFT with Peanut Butter & Pretzel, and Sugar Cookie STUFT with Lemon Bar.

Calabasas Cake & Cookie Co. focuses on a business-to-business clientele that uses its product as part of their marketing programs. “Our customers love to keep our cookies on hand and also have us personalize them for their special events,” states Luterman.

 Whether through a surprising, clearly indulgent treat or via better-for-you ingredients and portion control, more cookie manufacturers are helping consumers make every bite count.