After 20 years, Cookie Man is reinventing itself for the Indian consumer’s changing tastes in the new normal
In January 2000, when Cookie Man — the flagship cookie brand run by Australian Foods India — was first launched in a cosy little 10 X 10 space in a mall in Chennai, only a few could’ve predicted the popularity of the brand’s freshly baked cookies with the Indian consumer. Cut to two decades later, Cookie Man now offers more than 30 variants of cookie flavours in over 50 stores across 17 Indian cities.
In the past, the enticing smell of freshly baked cookies wafting through several floors of a mall helped draw many a curious customer to the Cookie Man stores. But the brand – after winning over Indian taste buds through a traditionally strong brick and mortar presence – is now reinventing itself as one with a strong online presence in the new normal.
“We have predominantly been an offline brand. What we realised during the COVID-19 period was that we have loyal customers across the country but our products were not accessible to them online. That’s when we decided to increase our digital footprint,” says Anupam Saluja, CEO, Cookie Man.
Anupam Saluja, CEO, Cookie Man
In the months following the lockdown in India, Anupam and the team saw how these customers in particular had no way of buying the assortment of cookies they were craving. In fact, when Cookie Man was transitioning its website into an ecommerce portal, the team received over 300 emailed enquiries that month alone.
In March, the brand launched an upgraded version of its website in an ecommerce format to display its full line of offerings. That followed the September launch of its initial version of the website, which garnered much interest, primarily from its loyal customer base who used to earlier frequent the offline stores.
Now, in addition to Cookie Man’s own website, the products are also available on various ecommerce sites such as Amazon, Flipkart, Big Basket, Supr Daily, Milk Basket, and Grofers. Online, the company sells its gourmet cookies like Almond Biscotti, Brownie Brittle, and Pista fingers along with 12 variants of its crispy crunchy cookies, including Brandy Snap and Choc Chip, as well as brownies and muffins, and gift boxes.
Assorted cookies from Cookie Man
While COVID-19 impacted overall biscuit sales, the premium cookies segment, which contributes 8-10 percent of the overall biscuit market (estimated to be Rs 35,000 crore), grew at a relatively healthy pace, owing largely to changing consumer preferences.
“This is predominantly due to a shift in consumer preferences to eating less but high-quality tasty products. We are seeing increasing traction of new consumers shifting to consume freshly baked boutique products — a segment which we operate in,” adds Anupam.
By January 2021, three months after the brand went online, it saw monthly sales return to pre-COVID-19 levels. While sales took a hit during the initial period of the lockdown, on an adjusted basis, the company’s FY21 performance is expected to be “slightly better” than FY20.
In FY20, the Chennai-based Cookie Man – which has been profitable since 2018 – recorded revenue of about Rs 40 crore. As the company ramps up its digital presence and launches new products to cater to its online customers, it expects to see revenue double in the next two years.
“We have been continuously innovating to marry the Australian recipe with the Indian palette. We launch as many as 4-5 products every quarter. Our new products launched in the current quarter (Biscottis) have received a positive response on online platforms. Our indulgent cookies have been our marquee SKU in our stores. These products have been slightly modified to cater to the online market,” says Anupam.
The brand, which has become a mainstay in premium malls and airports across the country, is also innovating its offerings and recipes to cater to health-conscious consumers. As the average Indian consumer becomes more conscious of what they are eating, Cookie Man has now developed its own version of the health bar called the ignite bar.
The Cookie Man baking ovens, which are used to this day in all stores to bake fresh cookies, is now experimenting with more healthy cookie options. These experiments that began during COVID-19 include developing gluten-free, vegan and Keto-friendly cookies, as the team looks to also increase its focus on the health and wellness segment.
Through an efficient and successful franchising model, Australian Foods has rapidly grown its operations in India to NCR, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mangalore, Bhubaneshwar, Udaipur, and Port Blair. To this day, the company ensures that all cookie dough, toppings and related materials are produced in the Cookie Man Commissary in Chennai.
Modern Foods, a subsidiary of the EverStone Group-backed Everfoods, acquired Cookie Man in 2018. Recently, private equity firm Everstone, which manages assets of over $5 billion, announced the sale of Modern Foods to Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo, which is the world’s largest baking company.