The cookie is evolving, and now fits into the better-for-you snacking trend
By Jane Dummer
While most pastries, cookies and cakes are considered a decadent treat because they are usually high in calories and lack essential nutrients, an evolution has been happening: Meet the better-for-you cookie.
When the thought of having a cookie to start your day or after a workout may still seem foreign but when you think about the possibilities that include convenience, portion size, and the unlimited number of healthful ingredients that can go into a cookie formulation, it makes sense. This trend was in full force at The Winter Fancy Food Show held in January in San Francisco. I saw better-for-you cookies and cookie bites all geared towards the health conscious consumer purchasing more grab-and-go options.
At the show, Sue Kakuk, the CEO and founder of Kakookies, a certified woman-owned business based in Minneapolis was showcasing her cookie line. Like most food entrepreneurs, Kakuk identified a need when her daughter was a collegiate cyclist and witnessed the team stopping at Dunkin Donuts to fuel up before their races. Kakuk explains, “I crafted an on-the-go cookie made with whole grains and healthy ingredients that would sustain their energy and satisfy their hunger. In a world bursting with ultra-processed energy snack bars, I wanted to create an alternative with the soft baked deliciousness and comfort of a cookie but the nutrition of an energy bar. Good anytime, anywhere. That’s why we call it a cookie re-imagined!”
Kakuk’s homemade idea turned into a business line of cookies made without wheat, dairy, egg and soy because Kakuk observed people with food allergies and dietary restrictions had limited options. “We rely on simple ingredients to carry the flavour while offering healthier calories, not empty ones. The short ingredient list includes oats, nuts, chia seeds, and antioxidant rich dried fruits. No protein powders or other ultra-processed ingredients. The shelf-life is up to six months. The cookie retails for around $2.39 USD. Our current market distribution is one third across each grocery, foodservice, and e-commerce. The top three selling cookies are Cashew Blondie, Boundary Waters Blueberry, and Dark Chocolate Cranberry. I predict our newest flavour launch, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, will be in the top two by the end of the year.”
I’ve noticed a shift with my clients, other SMEs, artisan bakeries and home bakers crafting better-for-you cookies and bites. There is definitely a social media surge with breakfast cookie options. Often these recipes are made with healthier fats and are lower in sugar than the typical indulgent cookie. Breakfast cookies can be made in batches and refrigerated or frozen for the future. Beyond breakfast, these options are perfect as a shelf-stable grab-and-go snack all day long, as well as a healthy post workout choice.
Jim Kavanagh, Founder and President of Brandseed Marketing, located in Toronto agrees, “Functionally, cookies were mainly offered as a comfort food but were high in calories. Now there are far more options that not only taste great but are low in calories, are gluten free, with non GMO and organic lines. As well, there has been a shift to unique flavours which are directed toward adults. We are seeing new formats in the category in addition to the normal cookie shapes. We believe there will be more innovative cookie launches with a health focus over the next few years. Four years ago, Brandseed Marketing launched Gluten Free Bites. It’s now one of our largest brands and continues to grow.”
In my October 2018 Bakers Journal column about Keto Baking, I featured an innovative cookie launch by Nui Foods in Southern California. The founders were both living the keto diet and wanted to create a snack that was ready-to-eat at home, work, and at the gym. Their positioning is low sugar because it’s more relatable to a larger market, plus it also fits in the keto category. Since my column was published last fall, Nui Foods appeared on the reality show, Shark Tank. They came away with a $300,000 for 25 per cent equity deal from Major League Baseball Star turned businessman Alex Rodriguez. Now who’s questioning the evolution of the cookie?
Jane Dummer, RD, known as the Pod to Plate Food Consultant, collaborates and partners with the food and nutrition industry across North America.