Amid the stresses and at-home lifestyle of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers turned to their favorite sweet treats in droves — cookies included. 

But most consumers have since returned to their regular day-to-day activities, spending less time at home snacking away on their favorite treats. This, coupled with high inflation, has taken a bite out of the category’s momentum. 

“Cookie sales will likely return to traditional slow-volume growth patterns as consumers increasingly shift food consumption back to away-from-home eating, but inflation-fueled higher prices will boost dollar sales at least through 2022,” explained Jennifer Christ, manager, food and beverage research, Packaged Facts.

This is reflected in the cookie category’s recent performance, with unit sales falling 3.8% to 2.8 billion and dollar sales rising 7.7%, to $8.6 billion, according to IRI data for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 4, 2022. 

Lower in-stock rates are another reason for declining unit sales, noted Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice president and practice leader, IRI.

“Consumers may want to buy them, but they’re not finding them on shelves all the time,” she explained. “The benchmark is a 95% in-stock rate, and cookies were 11 points below at 84% year-to-date through August 2022.” 

Certain category segments, however, including assorted multi-packs and perimeter traditional cookies, are driving sales with significant unit and dollar growth. 

“The perimeter in general is where you get a lot of traffic, and it’s where consumers can also pick and choose what they want. They don’t necessarily have to get a full package; they can mix and match flavors,” she explained. “This growth shows an opportunity for cookie manufacturers to provide lower-priced, midsize or smaller packages, so consumers can stay in the category yet not have to pay today’s inflated price.”

While cookies weren’t always going to enjoy the unprecedented demand they saw early in the pandemic, recent industry challenges have pushed cookie makers to regain momentum.

This article is an excerpt from the October 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Cookies, click here.