Cookie Time Group’s first order into Costco Japan has been selling fast, with Costco placing a re-order two days after Cookie Time mega-size pouches hit the market.
The pouches arrived in Costco Japan stores in earl January and higher than expected sales prompted an immediate re-order, more than quadruple the original order.
The sell-through is another boost for Cookie Time’s global aspirations. With 14 countries currently on Cookie Time’s export list, it’s aiming to grow this to 25 within 12 months. New targets include the Pacific Islands, India, China and the Middle East.
Cookie Time Co-Founder and MD Guy Pope-Mayell says the business is now fully geared for export growth, with additional resource and partnerships with manufacturer representatives throughout Asia Pacific and further afield.
“At the start of 2022 we were exporting to four countries. By the end of 2022 we had 14 countries engaged. Now we’re targeting 25 countries by year end.”
Cookie Time celebrates its 40th birthday next month – February 7, 1983 being the day the business launched with delivery of 70 jars of cookies to 70 Christchurch dairies. It’s New Zealand’s top selling cookies brand, and New Zealand’s most trusted cookies brand (Reader’s Digest Trusted Brands).
Pope-Mayell says the company has fielded export inquiries from the outset and, after a successful 10 years in Japan with a Cookie Bar retail store in Tokyo and wholesaling to large convenience chains, the new Costco Japan relationship has been a catalyst for a greater focus on export.
“It may seem a slow burn but we’ve been building our international brand profile and visibility, and building capacity behind the scenes. Our time in Japan has given us confidence to accelerate our plans. And having the global FSSC 2200 (Food Safety System Certification) which Cookie Time gained several years ago, also speeds progress.
“Our aspiration is to make this iconic Kiwi brand a global success story, an important focus for our fifth decade. Key to success has been an internal culture shift to focus on export, appointing additional export-focused internal resource, external partnerships and a robust intellectual property portfolio,” he says.
Early feedback from Costco Japan customers, highlighted in a growing social media buzz, has centred on homestyle cookies, cute packaging and the cutest character.
“Cookie Time brand is led by our Cookie Muncher character, who has been an incredible asset in creating instant recall and tapping into pop culture aesthetics,” Pope-Mayell says.
Reiki Usami (pictured), one of the first Costco Japan customers and a regular at the Tokyo Cookie Bar, agrees. “I love foreign foods and snacks and made a beeline straight for this. This is a great product and exceptional value, and the Cookie Muncher character is fun, happy and welcoming.”
Pope-Mayell says one of the biggest lessons in export has been that businesses don’t need to go it alone.
“Manufacturer representatives take your brand and do all the hard yards in market, using local knowledge to approach the best wholesalers and retailers, advise on brand positioning and so on. Generally these partnerships work on a small retainer and commission basis, making this an affordable approach that is largely connected to success.
“In short you don’t necessarily have to travel to get international traction, and you can go much faster and deeper in market with a local partner.”
Targeting 25 countries is a deliberate diversification strategy, so if one market is delayed – for example working through stringent government agency checks or technical detail – another can progress.
“It might appear counter-intuitive to divide your focus, but it means that we can keep everything running in parallel and avoid the risk of having all our eggs in one basket.”