Cookies are everywhere. Pre-packaged sandwich cookies, boxes of Girl Scout-branded goods, single-serve grab-and-go and more; the popular indulgent snack is a stalwart for retailers.
In fact, cookies have seen their versatility lead to a 7% increase on menus, according to Menu Insights from London-based Mintel. Retailers count on cookies for a significant piece of their instore bakery sales. Data from Nielsen, New York, shows cookies at 5.5% compound annual growth rate when it comes to bakery category share of sales. That’s second only to the ‘all other desserts’ category.
Commissaries and intermediate bakeries can help retailers stock their bakeries with trendy, classic and intriguing cookies.
The cookie’s role
The instore bakery as a whole is thriving as it reached $13.2 billion in sales and developed items to meet consumers’ evolving demands for convenience. Nielsen noted that the department has successfully capitalized on the demand for smaller products that have helped spark sales.
“Right now, a mantra for the department can and should be ‘smaller is better,’” says Matt Lally, associate client director of Nielsen’s Fresh Growth + Strategy team. “There are still occasions and need for large platters or giant cakes, but the growth is coming from smaller-sized products or portions.”
Cookies can help fill that void.
Lally notes that mini versions of products are just one way bakeries can deliver smaller portion sizes. Reducing the number of items in a package is another option. He says that cookies have experienced growth within this department because retailers now offer containers with just enough cookies for a small household.
The importance of inclusions
Inclusions can add excitement — and, more importantly, value — to cookies. Consumers eat with their eyes when they’re shopping in the supermarket. Inclusions can offer an economical and simple way to bake limited-time offerings, which can create an urgency to purchase.
The intent of inclusions is to wow the shopper with flavor, texture and visual appeal.
“Today’s consumers want personalized experiences with their food,” says Jamie Wilson, director of business development, marketing, culinary, and R&D for Fort Worth, Texas-based Parker Products. “They are seeking intriguing experiences, including surprising textures and exotic flavors.”
Parker Products — which carries the motto “We make the ingredients that intrigue consumers” — offers a line of bakery ingredients that includes inclusions, coatings, icings, toppings and fillings.
Inclusions can also present challenges during production. Consumers tend to prefer large chocolate chunks, caramel pieces, nuts or dried fruits in their cookies. When producing these types of cookies on a large scale, bakers have to keep them intact while portioning so that consumers can see the inclusions in, and on the surface of, the cookie.
With clean label ingredients and baked goods with an artisan touch grabbing consumers’ interest, the need for premium cookies is rising. But keeping up with demand can be a challenge.
Jim Fontain, bakery specialist for Reiser, a Canton, Massachusetts-based supplier of processing and packaging solutions, says these challenges can oftentimes lead to bakeries turning down business or questioning whether they can scale up formulas without sacrificing premium ingredients.
The company says working with key suppliers and tapping into automated solutions can help bakers expand production and retain product integrity.
“Using a higher percentage of quality ingredients is what makes a gourmet cookie stand out,” Fontain says. Flour will impact the mouthfeel and tenderness of the cookie more than any other ingredient. When scaling up ingredients, bakers should make sure they are using the same type of flour they did when producing smaller batches.
And while bakers can utilize a number of fats when working with cookies, butter is typically the way to go if a premium product is desired.
Butter leads to a tender texture and rich taste, Fontain says. When using a large amount of butter, bakers must be hyper-aware of the temperature.
And when it comes to taste, sweeteners and inclusions pack the most punch.
“One of the highest percentage ingredients in the formula, sugar can be used in many forms, such as granulated cane, light or dark brown, powdered and more,” Fontain says. “All will impact the sweetness level along with tenderness and spread of your cookie.”
Unifiller, headquartered in Delta, British Columbia, specifically targets cookie production with its Uni-Dopositor.
The Uni-Dopositor is a cookie dough depositor and extruder that the company says provides a greater production yield, accurate weight control, and a higher standard of safety.
The machine is able to handle a wide range of products, from gourpmet cookies, cookie pucks and sugar cookies, as well as brownies, pie dough and energy bars. It can also cut through large inclusions without crushing or melting them.
The Uni-Dopositor comes in 16 and 24-inch models, both of which feature high traction roller design and weight control across die ports. They include an integrated conveyor and built-in pan senor, as well as PLC controls that can store up to 100 recipes.
Manufacturers have the option between choosing a knife blade or a wire cut-off and quick-change inserts are included for easy adjustment. The depositor boasts speeds up to 120 cuts per minute and offers an open design for full washdown.
Reiser offers its Vemag cookie dough depositor, which can help with everything from tubs of bulk dough to individual, pre-formed cookie dough portions.
The Vemag features a powerful, positive displacement double-screw pump that provides high levels of portioning accuracty, according to the company. The double-screw transports product gently and without crushing or smearing.
The Vemag is available in various models and hopper capacities to meet any production requirement. A Reiser-engineered Waterwheel flow diviider can be added for multiple-lane production.