KANSAS CITY — If one were to draw a comparison between the just completed 2016 Summer Olympics and the cookie category, Mondelez International, Inc. would slot in well in the role of the United States, dominating not only on a volume basis, but on an individual basis as well, with stand-out brands.
With dollar sales of $3,165,934,848 in the 52 weeks ended Aug. 7, East Hanover, N.J.-based Mondelez is by far the category leader in cookies, holding a nearly 40% share of the $8,141,116,928 cookie category, according to Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm. The company’s dollar sales increased 1.9% from the same period a year ago, helping drive an overall gain of 3.3% in the segment.
Just as U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps has dominated the sport over a decade, Mondelez’s Nabisco Oreo cookies brand has stood atop the cookie category, and with dollar sales north of $742 million, the brand maintains a solid lead over the No. 2 cookie brand (another Mondelez brand), Nabisco Chips Ahoy!, with dollar sales of $642,534,848, according to I.R.I.
But just as Mr. Phelps has had to continue to work to maintain his dominance, Mondelez has initiated efforts with its Oreo brand to keep an edge, incorporating everything from different wafer varieties to new fillings to the latest innovation: Nabisco Oreo Thins.
Mondelez introduced Oreo Thins in July 2015, and already in the 52 weeks ended Aug. 7, 2016, the brand had generated more than $111 million in sales, according to I.R.I. At the time of the product’s launch, Mondelez targeted the cookies toward adults looking for a more grown-up take on their favorite childhood cookie.
“At Oreo, we know that some of our fans have grown up and that their tastes have grown up, too,” Patty Gonzalez, senior brand manager for Oreo at Mondelez, said at the time of the launch. “The crisp and delicate texture of Oreo Thins was specially designed for fans who love the taste of Oreo but are looking for a more sophisticated cookie.”
In June, Mondelez added lemon and chocolate to its Oreo Thins lineup, which includes classic, golden and mint.
Another champion in the Mondelez portfolio has been Nabisco belVita cookies. In the 52 weeks ended Aug. 7, dollar sales of belVita totaled $277,310,304, up 21% from the same period a year ago and fast-approaching the No. 3 brand: Nabisco Oreo Double Stuf cookies.
belVita has been well-known in international markets for several years, but the brand’s entrance into the United States in 2012 opened the door to a broader audience, and the reception has been outstanding.
The success of belVita has led other grain-based foods companies to try and capitalize on the success of the biscuit-type product. Post Foods, L.L.C., St. Louis, in 2015 added to its on-the-go breakfast options with the launch of Honey Bunches of Oats Breakfast Biscuits.
The success Mondelez has had in bringing belVita to the U.S. market has given Pepperidge Farm Inc., Norwalk, Conn., hope that similar success is in store for Tim Tam. A favorite in Australia, Pepperidge a little more than a year ago started a regional roll-out with one retailer.
During fiscal 2016 the company expanded into five retailers nationally with three varieties: original, chewy caramel and dark chocolate. For fiscal 2017 the company plans to continue in five retailers and introduced dark chocolate mint as the fourth variety in its U.S. range.
“Stay tuned for an integrated marketing campaign that introduces more of America to Australia’s favorite biscuit,” Luca Mignini, president of Global Biscuits and Snacks for Campbell, said during a July 20 call with analysts.
More broadly, Mr. Mignini said Pepperidge Farm “can do significantly better in fiscal 2017” than the 5% share it currently holds in the cookie category.
“Milano is the hero of our portfolio,” he said. “So to help us build the success we have seen over the last 15 weeks we are continuing to invest in marketing support and our ‘Keep Something for Yourself’ campaign. We also have some exciting consumer trend driven innovations queued up for fiscal 2017, including spiced cider and toasted marshmallow Milano.”
In the 52 weeks ended Aug. 7, dollar sales of Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies totaled $142,421,344, up 4% from the same period a year ago, according to I.R.I.
At Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., the focus is on shifting investment to brands that might provide the strongest growth. To optimize the company’s return on investment, Kellogg has concentrated its spending behind what it considers its best brands, Deanie Elsner, president of U.S. Snacks at The Kellogg Co., noted during an Aug. 4 conference call with analysts.
“In cookies, we have turned on media for the first time in years on the Keebler brand, introducing a whole new generation to the elves in the hollow tree,” Ms. Elsner said. “It’s early days, but the Keebler brand turned to consumption growth in Q2.”