When The Cookie Department, based in Emeryville, CA, called me in to taste their new selection of grab-and-go “functional” cookies, it didn’t take much for me to show up for a meeting. That was before I knew founder and baker Akiva Resnikoff could give Don Draper a run for his money in the eyes department (see Exhibit A).
I’d gone gaga over their fun, retro office-themed branding. Akiva explained: “A lot of time was put into the concept and all of our marketing is geared towards “50’s and 60’s office America”. While it hasn’t quite made the leap to the current packaging, you can see a young cookie company in motion as they figure out what works.
The product is well made too, with inventive, natural flavors – some geared more to adults and others to eaters of all ages. They’re not your decadent bakery style cookies but what you might look for as an energy-bar alternative. Here’s the skinny:
- Peanut Power – 10 grams of protein, it made a perfect breakfast snack and tasted like homemade.
- Awaken Baked has the equivalent caffeine as a cup of coffee, from organic coffee and big dark chocolate chunks. My friend wasn’t that into it, but I can totally see eating this on the go or as a roadtrip snack.
- Smart Cookie (Vegan) includes sweet potato and has the pumpkin spicy flavor of a healthy cookie. (Not for the decadent minded.)
- Sexy Cookie (Maca Chocolate Chip Cookie) – Tasters agreed: We’ll wait to see if the slightly bitter Maca root increases our vitality before getting hooked on these.
- Gingersnaps (new flavor) – 3 out of 3 who tried ’em loved these firm, gingery ditties.
Entrepreneur’s Lessons Learned
After a few years testing cookies in various Bay Area cafes, Akiva had just received his packaging and had some experiences to share:
- Printing packaging early on is expensive and perhaps too much of a commitment. Making slight changes to the design can rack up change costs. (I’ve heard this over and over. Investing in a printer yourself is often a good thing.)
- Pick packaging based on distribution. High barrier plastic increases shelf life. It may not be sexy but when the eater bites in, they won’t care. (As you can see here, attractive labels overcome the functional aspect of the package.
- Find a kitchen you like. Akiva found a flexible place with a pleasant ambiance that charges based on the amount of storage and refrigerator space. (It’s important to ask for those if you’ll need them!)
- Look to family and friends. Akiva started out in his cousin’s bakery and attributes his branding to help from family: “My brother and his wife are my graphic design and marketing professionals.” Lucky him!
Verified “Good:” Look for The Cookie Department, coming soon at cafes across San Francisco and beyond.