KANSAS CITY — The cookie category sits in an interesting position heading into the last quarter of 2017, with private label helping offset a downtrend at some of the major branded players.
In the 52 weeks ended July 9, dollar sales in the cookies category totaled $7,501,547,520, up 0.92% from the same period a year ago, according to Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm. Unit sales in the category, though, eased 0.26% to 2,861,425,408.
Pacing category growth during the period was private label cookies, which saw dollar sales increase 5.6% during the 52 weeks ended July 9 to $1,181,553,792. The gain in private label cookie sales helped offset declines across most of the top 5 cookie vendors. The exception to the declines was Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., whose Pepperidge Farm business posted a 3.9% increase in dollar sales during the period to $372,580,096, according to I.R.I.
Pepperidge has benefited from the April launch of Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Thin & Crispy cookies.
“These new thin and crispy cookies are simply delicious,” Denise M. Morrison, president and chief executive officer of Campbell Soup Co., said during a May conference call with analysts. “They leverage our baking heritage and are made with simple, real food ingredients. It’s early days, but retailer response has been positive with more than 50% A.C.V. distribution. Consumers have also responded favorably.”
The cookies are available in three flavors: milk chocolate chip, dark chocolate chip and triple chocolate chip. The cookies contain between 9 and 12 ingredients, depending on the flavor, including chocolate, flour, butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, baking soda, vanilla extract and salt.
The cookies have a suggested retail price of $3.49.
Additionally, Ms. Morrison said Pepperidge has upgraded its Classic cookie line, noting that the company needed “to respond to the fact that the market has moved in terms of quality and we need to maintain that edge.”
The largest cookie maker, Mondelez International, Inc., East Hanover, N.J., sustained a 1% decline in dollar sales and a 1.4% decline in unit sales in the 52 weeks ended July 9, according to I.R.I. The company’s lead Oreo brand sustained a 7.6% decline in sales during the period, while Oreo Double Stuf sales fell 6.7%. On the positive side, sales of belVita cookies surged 19% and Chips Ahoy! increased 2.7% during the period, according to I.R.I.
During an Aug. 2 earnings call, Irene B. Rosenfeld, chairman and c.e.o. of Mondelez, attributed the sluggishness in cookies to price deflation and erosion in promotion effectiveness in a number of markets, particularly the United States. Ms. Rosenfeld also said the industry is seeing a shift toward health and well-being products.
But despite this shift, Mondelez also has taken steps to extend its Oreo cookie brand into other more indulgent channels. Last November, the company debuted Milka Oreo chocolate candy bars. The bars are available in several varieties, featuring bits of Oreo cookies and vanilla creme along with Milka’s European chocolate candy. The product is available in three formats: The Milka Oreo Big Crunch Chocolate Candy Bar, the Milka Oreo Chocolate Candy Bar and the Milka Oreo Choco-Mix Snack Mix Bag.
More recently, Mondelez in early July partnered with Post Consumer Brands to reintroduce Oreo O’s cereal. The cereal, which features Oreo cookie bits and a crème coating, originally debuted in 1998, but it was discontinued in 2007.