Lucky for cookie lovers, there’s no limit on the availability of the when or where of cookie choices. Dawn Foods found that consumers are shifting their perception of sweet goods to be an essential part of a balanced lifestyle, according to Sara Havranek, marketing manager, Dawn Foods. Research conducted by the company found that 77% of global consumers plan to continue making sweet baked goods a regular part of their routine moving forward.

“There is a growing importance to our customers’ mental health and wellbeing, and a way to find these moments of joy is by indulging in smaller-sized, high-quality treats each day,” Havranek continued.

For some, something as simple as the addition of nuts to a cookie can offer a balance that satisfies the natural consumer craving for indulgence with a better-for-you option, recommended The California Walnut Commission, Folsom, Calif. Ingredients such as walnuts can deliver indulgence while also appealing to consumers who demand whole food ingredients with nutritional value, according to Jennifer Olmstead, director of U.S. marketing and communications, California Walnut Commission.

“As an inclusion, walnuts are the only nut that provide an excellent source of plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) with 2.5g per ounce,” she continued. “Omega-3 ALA may help with reducing the risk of heart disease and inflammation. Walnuts are also a source of good fats. One ounce of walnuts offers 18g of total fat, 2.5g of monounsaturated fat and 13g of polyunsaturated fat, including 2.5g of ALA.”

These choices also include a growing awareness among consumers about how one’s food choices affect personal health, the community and the planet. 71% of Dawn’s customers say they would pay a premium for sweet baked goods made in a sustainable manner. Sustainability is viewed as more important by Gen Z consumers and those with children. Among Gen Z, 72% say that sustainability influences where they buy groceries. Ever-popular clean labels are emphasizing familiar ingredients, no additives and no preservatives, shorter ingredient lists and clear ingredient sourcing.

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More health-conscious cookie options can also come in the form of low- and reduced-sugar options, meeting the needs of a range of cookie consumers – the sugar-conscious, low-carb and keto connoisseur. Thin and crispy versions can also be a good way to manage calorie count and boost portion control. Park City, Utah-based Kodiak Cakes’ Thin and Crispy Chocolate Chip Walnut cookies offer 5g of protein from plant-based protein.

While protein hasn’t made significant inroads in the conventional cookie space, it remains an area ripe for opportunity. Protein and fiber are easy ways to offer balance to consumers who want an indulgent treat that is a little less guilt inducing. Cargill is seeing an uptick in product launches with health-oriented positioning and is receiving requests to incorporate protein in specialty segments targeting low-carb diets.

Similarly, Dawn Foods have added in protein-rich ingredients such as Greek yogurt, peanut butter and almonds into its formulations. The company also offers a full line of vegan mixes, along with vegan fillings, icings, glazes, toppings and decorations. The flexible vegan cookie base formula can be used to make classic and signature cookie creations.

The potential for cookie choices is practically endless and regional cookie trends are spreading across the U.S., introducing cookie lovers to new favorites.

“The key to all these formulations is delivering on taste,” said Courtney LeDrew, senior marketing manager, Cargill, Minneapolis . “Consumers still expect their treats – whether they are reduced sugar, high protein or plant-based – to satisfy many of their sweet cravings.”

For even more cookie inspiration, bakers can attend IDDBA 2023 What’s in Store Live to see bakery innovation, including the yummiest of new cookie flavors, merchandising and personalization innovation at the Anaheim Convention Center in June.