Cookies hold universal appeal. Their aroma beckons, warm from the oven, promising delicious comfort—a little sweet treat to brighten the moment.
Ruth Wakefield knew this truth, often serving cookies to guests at her Toll House Inn in Whitman, MA. And when the chef strategically added a chopped Hershey chocolate bar to her cookie dough in 1938, a legend was born. Today, chocolate chip cookies play a dominant role in the $9.6 billion U.S. retail cookie category.
Wally Amos also knew the inherent power of a well-crafted cookie. As the story goes, when he was working as a talent scout for William Morris in Hollywood, he would send home his freshly baked chocolate chip cookies with prospective clients to sweeten the deal. During his tenure, he signed Simon & Garfunkel and a star-studded host of other celebrities.
But it turns out the cookies were the stars. Amos eventually entered the baking industry, establishing his “Famous Amos” bakery on Sunset Boulevard in 1975 (with financial help from his clients and friends Marvin Gaye and Helen Reddy), eventually expanding into retail product development.
Today, Chicago-based Ferrara, part of The Ferrero Group, owns Famous Amos—a brand that today has more of a global perspective. In 2021, Famous Amos released its newly reformulated, internationally inspired line of cookies, dubbed “Wonders From the World” and made with distinctive ingredients to carve a unique niche in today’s retail cookie category.
“Famous Amos is a nostalgic brand now being reimagined for today’s world,” says Fernando Bernardo, senior brand manager, cookies, Ferrero. “While sticking with its bite-sized shape that people know and love, Famous Amos is shaking things up by introducing three new recipes with premium ingredients from around the world, including coconut from the Philippines, chocolate from Belgium, and hazelnuts from the Mediterranean.” The line comprises three varieties of bite-sized cookies:
- Made with Belgian Chocolate
- Made with Mediterranean Hazelnut and Chocolate Chips
- Made with Philippine Coconut and White Chocolate Chips
This approach reflects the increasingly global palette and awareness of today’s consumers—and particularly in younger demographics. “Millennials love internationally inspired recipes,” says Bernardo, “and that was a great opportunity in cookies category.”
The cookies offer premium dynamics, like a high percentage of chocolate chips in the formula. “Famous Amos cookies are notoriously famous for being in a bite-size format and full of great-tasting chocolate chips,” says Bernardo. “With the launch of Wonders From the World, we increased the amount of chocolate chips even more—more than 50% vs. the previous recipe—and kept the iconic bite-size format that consumer know and love.”
Pathway to innovation
Famous Amos followed a strategic pathway through its innovation process leading up to the Wonders From the World launch.
“We conceptualized recipes based on flavors with high appeal to our consumers,” says Bernardo. “In initial prototypes, we began increasing the amount of chocolate, testing types of chocolate, removing unnecessary ingredients such as TBHQ and whey, and perfecting the crunchy texture that consumers expect. After a round of qualitative and quantitative tests, we grounded the three flavors on recipes that would delight consumers the most.”
Ferrara then sought to build a brand relaunch campaign, which introduced some innovative perspectives on consumer testing. “Part of the journey of relaunching the Famous Amos brand was to bring best-in-class ingredients to the consumer,” says Joey Kreger, client services director, Curion, Deerfield, IL, a company that partners with the food industry for product, sensory, and consumer insights. “Ferrara had finalized the new recipe, but then needed to capture consumer excitement once they tasted it, to generate buzz with their sales team and retail partners.”
Kreger notes Curion created a research study that addressed two learning objectives:
- How do we generate content for sales stories, beyond quantitative data?
- How do we generate sales support for a new launch of an in-market product?
“We proposed an agile and cost-efficient learning plan that would bring in heavy users of current Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies into our Chicago and New York metro area facilities to taste the current and new formulas and record their reaction in a testimonial-style video,” says Kreger. “We then used our video analysis platform to sift through the video footage and search for key phrases of interest using voice-to-text transcription. We filtered over five hours of footage and created a two-minute highlight reel with especially impactful and descriptive quotes from consumer.”
Famous Amos and Ferrara then shared this highlight reel video within their organization, and with their buyers, to drive excitement for the relaunch, notes Kreger. “One of the key benefits Ferrara found with this approach was the ability to observe visceral consumer reactions to the new recipe. Capturing facial expressions when trying the product added another layer of understanding.”
Cookie brands reach consumers through exciting, craveable flavors and textures. But practical packaging also plays a critical role in earning repeat purchase for a brand.
The combination of a snackable size and resealable packaging is an advantage. “We identified that few brands in the cookies category have resealable packaging,” says Bernardo. “This is an important and intuitive benefit, to allow cookies stay fresh and crunchy for longer. This is the reason we modified the structure from ‘bag in a box’ to a DOY bag.”
Each product within the Wonders From the World line gets its own packaging design, with graphics highlighting the global inspirations. “We explored different design options and opted for artwork that speaks to the provenance of the hero ingredient,” says Bernardo. “We leveraged icons and symbols from the locations to help illustrate where the best ingredients from around the world come from.”
Consumers have had a strong initial response to the new Famous Amos Wonders From the World cookies. “The response is positive and confirms what our research had suggested,” says Bernardo, noting that this response has prompted the Famous Amos team to possibly further expand the Wonders From The World line in the future.
AT A GLANCE
Brand: Famous Amos