What you need to know

Cookies are known for their indulgence, and consumers are largely motivated to eat cookies for a treat and to satisfying cravings. Yet, when asked what they would choose if cookies were not available, 43% of cookie consumers noted they would choose fruit. While retaining good flavor and enjoyment in the category will be key to meeting primary consumer demands, there are opportunities to better tap into health aspirations. Swapping processed sugars for more natural options, such as dried fruit, is one way to add permissibility.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to increased at-home comfort eating, snacking and baking, all of which supported increased cookie consumption and strong dollar sales gains in the category. 44% of those eating cookies more often in 2021 are doing so for comfort. Consumers are expected to slowly return to their pre-pandemic routines through the remainder of 2021, and as they do, they will have other, away-from-home opportunities for indulgence, including dining out.

Consumers’ increased interest in at-home baking remains both a threat and an opportunity for the cookie category. 42% of US adults who eat homemade cookies are planning to eat them more often, potentially luring consumers to competing categories including baking mixes and ingredients and away from packaged cookies and cookie dough. Cookie dough players can appeal as the quicker and easier route to at-home baking, while packaged cookie brands will be challenged to inject experience and customizability into products, whether through personalized products or through messaging that shows consumers how to add their own touches to pre-made options.

Online food and drink shopping accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, and cookies were not an exception. 29% of consumers who have increased their consumption of cookies purchased from an online retailer in 2021 are planning to continue doing so, leaving ecommerce as a long-term opportunity for the category. Enabling ecommerce and online purchasing methods will be the first step, but brands have opportunity to get creative with DTC formats, such as subscription services, or enable consumers to order customized, special-edition or limited-time cookies online.

This Report looks at the following areas

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and the cookie market.

  • Current and expected change in cookie consumption frequency.

  • Reasons for eating cookies more often.

  • Cookie motivations.

  • Interest in cookie innovation.


For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has divided the cookie market into the following segments:

  • Cookies: packaged as individual or multipacks

  • Cookie dough: refrigerated or frozen

Excluded from the market size in this Report are:

  • Cookie mixes – data and analysis on cookie mixes can be found in the Baking and Mixes – US, March 2021 Report

  • Fresh cookies sold through in-store bakeries and foodservice venues – data and analysis on in-store bakery cookies can be found in the In-Store Bakeries – US, February 2021 Report

  • Cookie-based candy bars (eg Twix)

  • Crackers

This Report builds on the analysis presented in Mintel’s Cookies – US, July 2019 Report, as well as the August 2017 and September 2015 Reports of the same name.

Market context

At time of Report writing, 124 million Americans are fully vaccinated and vaccination restrictions have loosened to include Americans aged 12-15. The CDC updated its guidelines regarding mask wearing and social distancing in May 2021 and advises that those who have been fully vaccinated no longer need to do either, except where required by local governments or businesses. Vaccinations are expected to continue through 2021, and President Biden has announced that the goal is to get 70% of American adults to receive at least one dose by July 4, 2021. As consumers get further into 2021, they will adopt more of their pre-pandemic routines, including a weaker reliance on their own homes for meal and snack times. The custom consumer research conducted for this Report was fielded in April 2021, and the Report was written in May 2021.

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel bases its expectations for economic growth on projections provided by the CBO, the FOMC, the Conference Board and other public sources. Consensus estimates forecast US GDP to increase by 6.5% in 2021. Unemployment has been forecast to decline to as low as 4.1% by the end of 2021 with an average of 5.7% for the year.

COVID-19: US context

The first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the US in January 2020. It was declared a global health pandemic and national emergency in early March 2020. Across the US, various stay-at-home orders were put in place in spring 2020, and non-essential businesses and school districts closed or shifted to remote operations. The remainder of 2020 saw rolling orders, as states and local governments relaxed and reinforced guidelines according to the spread of the virus in each region.

Vaccine rollout began in December 2020. Mintel anticipates business operations in the US will remain in a state of flux through 2021 as vaccines are widely administered and social distancing restrictions and capacity limitations are relaxed.

Back to top