KANSAS CITY, MO — Cookies remain staples in the baking industry, but as consumer tastes evolve, indulgence increases and franchises see a surge of popularity, bakers behind these sweet treats are facing their own challenges.

From supply chain issues to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, the “whatever it takes” mentality takes hold for Rebecca Abel, CEO and founder of luxury cookie brand D’Vine Cookies, as she keeps her operation running.

“Our two major challenges are staffing and supply chain,” she said. “Staffing is always a challenge because even when we’re fully staffed, there’s just continuous outbreaks.”

Despite all employees wearing masks within the facility, members of Abel’s staff have already had COVID-19 three to four times, which has directly impacted operations. With staff out with COVID, she has had to wear all the hats, sometimes stepping away from R&D and into the mixing station. In addition to illnesses, the conflict of finding new staff is a notable challenge across the industry that’s impacting businesses like Abel’s luxury cookie company.

“For the most part, we made it out relatively unscathed, but we’ve been very flexible to have enough back-up product so we can afford to shut down when we have an outbreak,” she said. “We’ve had a couple of instances over the past two years where we’ve had to close down our operation for a few days, so that’s obviously difficult to have to stop production.”

The Ferndale, MI-based bakery continues an uphill battle with supply chain issues that has led Abel to seek out third or fourth tier suppliers for ingredients, a major issue for a brand reliant on inclusions to create its indulgent goods.


“Every month, it seems like there’s a different shortage on a different ingredient,” Abel said.

Similarly, Orem, UT-based Crumbl, an emerging cookie giant known for its rotating weekly menu of limited-time offer cookies, also faces its fair share of challenges. With the company planning its weekly lineups several months in advance, preparation eases the pressure on its franchises, which now span 500 locations.

“We try to plan out our menu as far in advance as possible,” said Katie Dunn, Crumbl’s senior director of procurement. “We’re always working with R&D to come up with backups and make sure we’re prepared and can pivot quickly if challenges arise. We’ve had to do that a few different times with different cookies.”

Working around these shortages means learning to be limber with product offerings to accommodate for supply chain troubles. Crumbl’s R&D team handles challenges by keeping pace and staying nimble and on top of consumer trends.

Abel uses the same strategy; when facing shortages on a certain item, she creates flavors with whatever is coming in that can get around the bottlenecks in the supply chain.

“We’re really a team with our suppliers,” Abel said. “They know what we need and they’re giving us forewarning. We’re hearing two or three months in advance with some ingredients that they hear down the pipeline that there’s going to be issues.”

Communication has served as a critical resource for Abel and her suppliers, working together in the face of shortages and uncertainty in the supply chain.


The Crumbl R&D and procurement teams also focus on communicating with their suppliers, which enables the company to plan for backup flavors and support their franchises when needed.

“We have lots of incredible partners and vendors that we work with. They understand our needs, they understand the standards that we have for our cookies and they’re able to quickly turn around,” said Chelsea Currier, VP of R&D at Crumbl. “Between those important relationships that we have with our vendors, we’re able to create some really great quality cookies.”

With the need to adjust to backup ingredients, D’Vine is in a constant state of R&D. Abel, who does much of the research and flavor development herself, said that because of supply issues they’re in need of new backup flavors and other ways to make cookies.

In Greg Toufayan’s case, it’s the simplest yet most crucial ingredients that have troubled his cookie manufacturing lines. The CEO of Toufayan Bakeries — which produces Goodie Girl, a gluten-free cookie line, and Sophia’s Cookies, which ranges from sandwich crème cookies to animal crackers and more — shared that to avoid shortages in critical ingredients like sugar, the bakery had to purchase contracts at higher prices.

“In response to just being concerned about getting and having difficulties, even this year, with getting some materials in house on time, we bought long at historically higher prices covering all of 2023,” he said.


To keep his cookie lines running, Toufayan and his team have had to take a lot of problems like delays, fuel surcharges and more on the chin. At one of his Florida bakeries, the plant manager went down to the rail yard on a Saturday, cookies and fresh bread in tow, to ask workers to move railroad cars blocking cars filled with flour that needed to be transferred to a truck to avoid the bakery running out of flour.

Additionally, consumer requests and demands make things difficult for bakeries like D’Vine to keep up with demand.

“We’re just doing the best we can, giving some longer lead times to certain clients and explaining the predicament that we’re in, and for the most part people are understanding,” Abel said. “It’s about open communication with our customers about what our issues are and that we are always trying to do the best that we can for them, but there’s times that we can’t deliver exactly what’s needed.”

This story has been adapted from the August| Q3 2022 issue of Commercial Baking. Read the full story in the digital edition here.