It’s a cookie with a healthy
conscience. Created and launched by the Food Development Group,
Armadillo cookies are a range of snacks that are good to the tastebuds
and good for the health. The Food Development Group’s Phillip Lee Wing
offers an insider’s look at the challenges of creating a functional
It’s a cookie with a healthy conscience. Created and launched by the Food Development Group, Armadillo cookies are a range of snacks that are good to the tastebuds and good for the health. The Food Development Group’s Phillip Lee Wing offers an insider’s look at the challenges of creating a functional food.
Tell me about the origins of the Armadillo cookie.
A client came to me about three years ago and asked me about trends in the industry. We noticed at the time that cookie sales were down because of concerns about sugar, concerns about white flour, concerns about junk food. We also noticed the term “functional ingredient” was being tossed around, but most people didn’t know what that meant or how to apply functional ingredients to baking. So we decided to take the cookie as the model and figure out how we could flip something that had a negative connotation. Consumers were becoming popular nutritionists themselves and were starting to eat healthier and now that’s even more mainstream in terms of reading labels, etc. So we worked with this client and came up with a line of cookies that would address healthy snacking, would address the issues with respect to no trans fats, and address the issues with using healthy sugars and using no white flours.
Can you tell me what’s behind the name?
The Armadillo is a disrespected animal in Texas that is often roadkill, but it has a hard outer shell to protect the inner body of the animal. We wanted to use ingredients in the cookies that would protect the consumer’s inner body. That was the whole imagery behind this.
Who are you targeting with these cookies?
We’re targeting adult consumers, consumers focusing on health, the housewife, the fellow who is going to the gym but still has a sweet tooth, the person working late in the office who wants something to tide him over until he gets his main meal. It’s something that’s good tasting for when you want something small that won’t ruin your appetite for your dinner and something you won’t feel guilty about.
The cookies have added soy, calcium, omega-3, protein or inulin – how did you pick those ingredients?
We felt that those were the functional ingredients that the consumer was most familiar with. When designing products, you can be too ahead of the trends or too behind them. You need to pick products that are timely, like no trans fats, oat fibre, evaporated cane juice, and using whole grain wheat flour.
We also spent a lot of time thinking about health claims – without making claims. We use a base formula for the cookies, but each one contains an individual flavour and functional component. The omega-3 oatmeal raisin has barley, which is approved in the U.S. for a claim related to cardiovascular health. We target bone health with the almond white chocolate cookie with soy and calcium, and the cranberry-apple with prebiotic inulin cookie focuses on digestive health. These are the first three flavours we’ve launched so far. The two others are blueberry with green tea extract and double chocolate with Peptopro, a proprietary patented protein that was initially developed for the Dutch Olympic team.
Here in Canada, how do you convey the beneficial health aspects of the cookies without making a claim?
We can make some claims; the cranberry-apple cookie with inulin can carry a fibre claim, the omega-3 oatmeal raisin cookie can carry an omega-3 claim, and the almond white chocolate cookie with soy and calcium can make a calcium claim. But we’re also depending on the consumer material, the POP material to convey the health message. Consumers think an energy bar is great, but the unit of measurement for energy is calories and if you switch the word from energy to calorie, you move from something perceived as positive to something perceived as negative. We use the slogan intelligent calories, intelligent snacking with these cookies. We’re hedging our bets that consumers want to snack, but they want to snack well.
How was it, working with those ingredients, was it tricky?
Absolutely. In order to make health claims, we have to respect certain levels of ingredients. By increasing those levels you end up with interesting side notes and flavour notes. We wanted the cookie to have a specific shape and colour, so controlling the spread, the browning of the product was really important. It’s not just a matter of adding healthy ingredients to a product and believing consumers will eat it. The primary driving force was that the product had to taste great. If it didn’t taste good, we wouldn’t launch it.
With functional foods you can’t have preservatives or additives, so there’s a shortened shelf life, so you really need to consider the formulation and the packaging.
What is the shelf life of the cookies?
Four months. We’ve kept the cookies for a year and noticed a few changes, but we wanted to give consumer freshest product possible. We also thought if the product didn’t sell for four months on shelf, then it didn’t deserve to be there.
Are there any other products on the horizon?
We’re working on fruit snacks that our client is interested in us launching with them. But one of the things I never realized in all my years as a researcher developing products for clients is, after the product has been developed, what a challenge it is to get it to market. One of the good things is that retail stores are realizing they need to develop a health category that isn’t drugs or vitamins, but where consumers can find good-for-you, wholesome types of foods.
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