‘Tis the Season for Giving…Cookies?

‘Tis the Season for Giving…Cookies?

The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s marks a time to celebrate with family, friends and colleagues in ways we don’t during other times in the year. Many of these celebrations center around feasts that often put turkey and ham in the spotlight, but no gathering is ever truly complete without an assortment of baked goodies as well.

A strong majority of Americans agree, as 80% buy or make baked goods, according to a recent survey asking what they plan to buy or make during the November/December holiday season. Nearly 50% of households will make cookies, and 42% will make another kind of sweet, such as cupcakes or brownies. But not everyone is an avid baker, and shoppers aren’t shunning pre-made options. A quarter of households still plan to purchase store-made cookies and another quarter preferred to buy their Thanksgiving pie pre-made.

While it might seem like in-store bakery, commercial and homemade all compete for slices of the same pie, Nielsen’s Total Food View shows that sales in each of these areas don’t automatically reduce sales in another. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are the top three sales weeks for fresh baked store-bought goods. Not coincidentally, however, sales spike for baking mixes and supplies, refrigerated doughs and even grocery cookies during these same three weeks. So which do consumers prefer—homemade or pre-made? As it turns out, both. Just for different uses.

With an array of office holiday parties, “Friendsgiving” and family gatherings this time of year, consumers find an array of opportunities to incorporate baked goodies into their celebrations. When we look at just cookies, consumers are most commonly reaching for Santa’s favorite treats (homemade and store-bought; fresh and commercial) to make a snack for the family during the holiday season. Nearly half of those indicating they would make cookies say they make them to bring to a family gathering; separately, 44% indicated they plan to give them as a present. Consumers who opt to buy their cookies are less likely to share with others outside the family, but it appears there’s less shame in serving a store-bought pie to family and friends. 

So who are the new-age Betty Crockers? Somewhat surprisingly, the answer is Millennials. Younger, more affluent families in particular are more keen on making their baked goods than buying them. One can’t help but wonder with the rise of social media, are Americans opting to flex their baking skills with homemade treats for the purposes of snapping that social media-worthy photo of little Santa cookies? Or is it the sense of nostalgia for passing along a family tradition to their kids—just as their parents or grandparents once did with them?

Regardless of the reasons, the insights from the survey suggest a plethora of marketing opportunities for any player in the sweet baked goods space. Manufacturers of pre-made products can tout the convenience so families can spend more time during the holidays on what matters most—togetherness. Manufacturers of ingredients can provide links to Pinterest recipes of Instagram-worthy photos on packaging and encourage making something so good it must be shared with others.  Retailers should evaluate the items most closely correlated in sales to various baked goods options and build a program or ad around the entire meal.  

And as another year winds down, let us remember that Tis the Season for Giving…Cookies?