Selling cookies, crackers on the perimeter

by Matt Hamer
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Love, Cookie cookies
Love, Cookie relies on dedicated repeat customers and a strong regional following to sell its gourmet treats.

KANSAS CITY — Walk down the cookie and cracker aisle of any grocery store in the U.S., and you will see a lot of familiar names. Boxes of Oreos, Cheez-It, Chips Ahoy! cookies and Triscuit are certain to be there for your perusing pleasure, both in classic and limited-edition varieties. There’s only so much space on the shelf, however. Despite the wide selection present in these aisles, they might not be the best place for up-and-coming manufacturers to showcase their wares. To make an impact, bakers are turning to the periphery.

“That’s part of their strategy for not getting lost on the shelves,” said David Van Laar, president of the Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers’ Association (B.&C.M.A.). “The newer startups that we’re seeing, that’s where they’re getting put for several reasons. There’s no space on the shelf now.”

According to Nielsen research, cookies sold in the perimeter of stores consist of $1.2 billion annual sales. This is up 7% in dollars and 4% in volume over the last year. Similarly, crackers sold in the perimeter are up 7% in dollars, 6% in volume and made up 74% of deli snack dollars spent in the same time period.

“The perimeter of the store is where growth is happening, whereas center aisles may be stagnant or may be overloaded with a bunch of brands,” said Sarah Schmansky, director of business operations for Nielsen. “To break out and be in that perimeter and hopefully ride the wave of some of that growth would be a main factor that would prompt cookie or cracker manufacturers to go beyond the center store.”

This kind of opportunity is what drove Eric Sorensen, brand manager of New Orleans-based Love, Cookie, to market his company’s cookies in the grocery store perimeter.

“I think people just really want something new,” Mr. Sorensen said. “If you walk down the cookie aisle, it’s dominated by Nabisco, Keebler and Pepperidge Farm. That’s all you get.”

Love, Cookie offers indulgent cookies in flavors such as Almond Toffee Crunch, Dark Chocolate Orange and Lemon Cooler. Its Dark Chocolate Mint is also a best seller. According to Mr. Sorensen, Love, Cookie products stand out from middle-store offerings by being marketed to adults who want something to savor with a glass of red wine after a full day of work.

“You want to be able to say, 'This is good. This is really tasty,’ ” Mr. Sorensen said. “Maybe it costs a dollar more, but it’s awesome.”

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