The Cookie Department aims to help children fight obesity with a healthy cookie alternative

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

The Cookie Department aims to fight obesity with a healthy cookie

Related tags Nutrition

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, the founder of The Cookie Department says he wants to “fight the good fight for anti-obesity” by marketing a vegan cookie to children and their parents through the California school system. 

But The Cookie Department’s cookies are not just any cookies, explained Akiva Resnikoff, who officially launched the company in 2009. These are “fully functional cookies”​ that are “classic cookies”​ made with real sugar, butter and eggs, but which also have “something extra,”​ he said.

All six of the individually wrapped cookies currently sold by The Cookie Department have “added benefits,”​ such as the 500 million CFU of probiotics in the company’s Cherry Bomb double-chocolate cookie to support the immune system, Resnikoff said. Other cookies are packed with protein, such as the Tough Cookie peanut butter protein cookie which boasts 5 grams of whey protein per serving, or offer a boost of caffeine equal to one shot of espresso such as in the Awaken Baked cookie, he said.

But the company’s cookie best suited to help children who are drawn to calorie laden sweets battle the bulge is the Great Full sweet potato wellness cookie, which is vegan and includes antioxidant-packed cranberries, Resnikoff said.

Weighing in with 160 calories, 16 grams of sugar and 5 grams of fat per 1.5 ounce serving, the cookie needs a bit of tweaking before it meets California school nutrition standards, acknowledged Resnikoff. Which is why in April he raised $5,000 through the crowdfunded micro-lending service Kiva Zip. Most of the money will be used to reformulate and make the Great Full cookie smaller so that it aligns with the school system’s guidelines. Some of it, however, will go to the package redesign and production and to attaining a GMO-free certification, Resnikoff said.

If all goes well and the cookie is accepted as a healthy snack option for school children, Resnikoff says he want to support the product by retrofitting a school bus with a portable climbing wall and gym equipment that can go to schools and be used as a tool to help children learn and become excited about fitness.

The traveling advertisement for fitness and the cookie likely will not happen until next Spring, which will provide ample time to revamp the cookie, Resnikoff said.

He added that he wants to provide a relatively healthy sweet treat for school children because he remembers how it felt to be overweight as a child and he does not want other children to feel that way, he said.

Move expands consumer base

The reformulation and move to the schools also makes smart business sense because it would allow The Cookie Department to expand and diversify its consumer base, Resnikoff said.

Currently, his cookies are not targeted to children, but rather to fit and active adults who eat the cookies as a pre- or post-workout snack or as a functional food. They also resonate well with “tech geeks,”​ and consumers looking for gourmet gifts, Resnikoff.

Resnikoff reaches these consumers by distributing his cookies in more than 700 national grocery stores, fitness centers, vending machines, college campuses and corporate offices, he said.

While the business was a bit slow to take off initially, the company’s sales have been growing exponentially in the past few years likely because more consumers are seeking the nutrients from functional foods rather than supplements.

Specifically, sales in 2014 increased 141.6% to $331,000 compared to $137,000 the prior year. The 2013 sales also were up 204% from 2012, which had relatively flat sales at about $25,000 annually from 2009-2011, according to data shared by the company through Kiva Zip.

More in the pipeline

In addition to expanding its consumer base to include children, The Cookie Department is working on several new cookies, including one that Resnikoff says he hopes to make with 10-20 grams of on-trend protein. He explains that he likely would mask the taste of the protein with the fat and sugar already in the cookies.

He adds that he also wants to create other cookies and maybe venture into the functional cereal category. However, he adamantly said he would not enter the nutrition bar category because it is too crowded.

Finally, Resnikoff is working to develop brand awareness for the company as a whole, he said.   

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