Mintel: Cookie Consumption Flat, But Opportunities Abound

If you binge on cookies after Christmas dinner, chances are it will be on either premium cookies or brands positioned around health. That's one of the takeaways from Chicago marketing research firm Mintel's fourth-quarter report on cookies and cookie bars.

Although a lot of people eat cookies, Mintel (which, come to think of it, actually sounds like a cookie) says consumption has been flatter than a Mint Thin. Per the consultancy, household consumption of cookies has stayed about the same since 2000.

U.S. sales for the cookie and cookie bar market through all channels, including Wal-Mart, are estimated to be more than $5.9 billion--up 14% during the 2002-07 period in current dollars, but flat after adjustments for inflation. The firm forecasts total U.S. sales of cookies and cookie bars to remain virtually unchanged at an inflation-adjusted annual rate through 2012.

Mintel says cookies are under pressure from the proliferation of other sweets, from ice cream to candy and cakes, refrigerated dough, baking mixes and frozen desserts.



That means opportunities for cookie makers resemble other markets: specialization catering to adults. Still, respondents to Mintel's custom survey reported eating more cookies this year than last. Mintel commissioned Greenfield Online to do the study in September 2007 among a nationally representative sample (weighted against the total population for estimation) of 2,000 adults ages 18 or over.

Forty-seven percent of respondents who said they are eating more cookies this year report greater availability of premium, indulgent cookies; and 42% say they saw a greater variety of healthier cookies to buy. During 2002-07, premium cookies gained 23% at current value or the equivalent of 8% when adjusted for inflation. Pepperidge Farm is the leader in the premium cookie segment with its trademark brand accounting for a steady 56.3% of segment sales in the two-year period from 2005 to 2007.

Sales of health-oriented cookies have grown steadily from 2002-07, gaining 20% at current value. The leading claims catching the eyes of respondents who buy cookies or cookie bars: free of trans-fats (27%); all-natural (22%); whole grain (19%); cholesterol-free (19%); and sugar-free (18%).

Removing trans-fats would be a boon for sales, even if the products are more expensive. Mintel research shows that 53% of respondents would be willing to pay more for products that are produced without trans-fats.

Mintel says Kraft/Nabisco leads brand sales of health-oriented cookies, accounting for 73.3% of sales in the segment. Its next-closest competitor, Kellogg's, holds just over a fifth of segment sales.

The firm argues that the future of cookies is cookie bars, and that new manufacturers will enter the category offering hybrid product lines such as energy cookie bars and meal replacement cookie bars. "This form of cookies allows for maximum versatility and originality in product innovation. Marketing cookie bars for specific demographics may be an avenue for marketers to explore."

Although--no surprise--survey respondents with kids report greater cookie consumption than those without, the percentage of households without kids in the U.S. is on the rise-up to 67.7% in 2005 compared to 65.4% a decade earlier. Says Mintel: "This shift is evident in the declining sales of standard cookies, compared to a rise in healthy cookies and premium cookies, which target a more adult audience."

And teenagers eat fewer cookies than kids, with just over three in four teenage respondents eat cookies, versus 98% of children ages 6-11. Mintel says teenage females are slightly more likely than males to snack on cookies (77% to 72%).

Mintel's survey also showed that men revealed consuming cookies with slightly greater frequency than females. "Opportunities to further stimulate use among men exist by marketing 'manly" cookies such as oversized cookies with large chunks of chocolate or nuts," says Mintel.

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