Did you know that Byron Bay Cookie Company has been around for twenty years? No, neither did I. I know I've seen them around since my late teens when I first started frequenting cafés but it really hadn’t struck me that they had been around for that long. The café near my work sells the individually packed ones and there’s often seven to eight varieties on display in jars so the selection, and temptation, can be a little overwhelming. My favourite of these homestyle-tasting cookies is definitely the Triple Choc Fudge, whereas sometimes I like to bring home a Whtie Choc Chunk & Macadamia Nut one for Monsieur Poisson – one of Byron Bay Cookie Company’s original and most popular flavours.
Gordon Slater has been Chairman of Byron Bay Cookie Company since 2006, after joining the company in 2002. For their twentieth anniversary, Byron Bay Cookie Company has released a special edition Rocky Road cookie. Recently I had the pleasure of asking Gordon Slater some questions:
1. Can you tell us about the origins and start-up of Byron Bay Cookie Company?
Byron Bay Cookie Company was founded by two Byron Bay locals who baked on a farmhouse stove in Byron Bay in 1990 and sold their products at market stalls. The business now employs 100 people in Australia and another 100 people indirectly, through its distribution partners worldwide. Byron Bay Cookie Company has offices in Byron Bay, London and Michigan, and exports to over 20 countries.
2. I've always wondered about the lady who features on the packaging as part of the company logo. Is there a story behind her and is she based on a real person?
She was developed specifically for us by a local artist. We wanted to create an image that would be iconic of Byron Bay Cookies and the experience of eating our cookies. A face speaks a thousand words and hers certainly does. You look at her and wonder what she’s thinking. She’s a little bit whimsical, very serene and reflective, enjoying her cookie with her groomed hair and pearls. ‘Where is she? What is she thinking? Who is she with?’ These are the questions that go through people’s minds when they look at her.
She was developed for us when we were still a small company but she has grown really well with the brand and is now an iconic part of Byron Bay Cookies as we envisioned all those years ago. We get so many people tell us how much they love our packaging and how instantly recognisable it is from the ‘lady’. And like all good pictures she has been restored and touched up over the years!
3. For Byron Bay Cookie Company's 20th anniversary, you've released a Rocky Road cookie. Where did the idea for this come from? And what is the process and timeframe for the development of new flavours to production?
Given that we’re celebrating the major milestone of 20 years of producing cookies that are all about decadence, indulgence and enjoyment, we wanted to create the most decadent, indulgent, enjoyable cookie for our customers as a thank you gesture for the support over the years.
As a team we initially came up with a few flavour ideas but the Rocky Road was the one that reflected indulgence and decadence for us the most. We’re a peanut-free facility, so we added a twist by including pecan nuts instead for an even more indulgent taste.
The process of developing a new café cookie flavour takes approximately four weeks from concept to production. We conduct some initial trials first, taste them, provide feedback to our product development team, do another trial (if necessary) and then test them in mass production (this is always the true test as to whether a product will work, as a product’s taste and texture can vary greatly from initial small batch trials to the time when it is mass produced). Simultaneously we also undertake market and consumer testing. We will only ever launch a cookie if it reflects our brand values of quality of product and a uniquely decadent taste.
4. Many of Byron Bay Cookie Company's cookie flavours also come in a gluten-free version, and were available when gluten-free alternatives were less common than today. What was the reasoning for this and was it a risk at the time?
Our Gluten Free range was launched end of 2003 – almost 7 years ago. The main driver for this was listening to customer needs and working hard to meet them – while it was still a fairly niche need at the time we felt very strongly about providing for this need.
Feedback and research at the time indicated that available products tasted like cardboard and were not appetising at all. Our mission was to produce the same delightfully decadent, deliciously different taste within the Gluten Free range as our regular cookies. We also had a staff member who was a coeliac at the time and she was instrumental in the testing process. Her standards were very high so we made sure we met them!
It has been fantastic to see over the years how much the availability of gluten free products has increased. The sales of our Gluten Free products continue to grow year-on-year.
5. Tell us a bit more about the new Byron Bay Bakehouse range.
The Byron Bay Bakehouse range is based on tried and tested recipes from Byron Bay Cookies. This new grocery range was developed as a response to a gap in the market for gourmet-style cookies that are readily available within the grocery sector of Australia. They are individually packaged to be a great snack on the run - morning or afternoon tea and/or lunch box treats. They’re a delicious treat for all to enjoy at home or out and about.
I was lucky enough to be sent a pack of the 20th anniversary Rocky Road cookies to try them out and the first thing I noticed upon opening the pack was the aroma. A familiar yet distinct smell that I couldn’t put my finger on at first but Monsieur Poisson identified it immediately as a sweet, berry, jammy aroma – they smell like Wagon Wheels! Must be something to do with the combination of marshmallows and jellies in amongst the milk chocolate chunks in the chocolate cookie base. Like all Byron Bay Cookie Company cookies, it’s not too sweet but has the interesting addition of pecans in its rocky road mix which is just as well as Mistress, who is allergic to walnuts, would’ve had to miss out otherwise when I offered her one.
Mistress, a fan of food with contrasting textural ‘bits’, absolutely loved the Rocky Road cookie and its ratio of ‘bits’ to cookie. Like me, she was happy that it wasn’t overly sweet. The marshmallows that were in the centre of the cookie were gooey, whilst any marshmallows around the edge had a nice crusty chewiness to them from the baking process. And although they’re perfect with a cup of tea or coffee for a snack, Monsieur Poisson and I decided to indulge our inner children by constructing ice-cream sandwiches – Rocky Road ice-cream sandwiches!
They’re delicious no matter how you eat them. Rocky Road cookies are available for order online through Byron Bay Cookie Company’s website and should be available at cafés soon.
Mademoiselle Délicieuse received a sample of Byron Bay Cookie Company 20th Anniversary Rocky Road cookies courtesy of Nicole Romano at Red Agency and the Byron Bay Cookie Company. Many thanks to Gordon Slater for taking the time to answer my questions.
Byron Bay, Brisbane Domestic Airport Terminal, David Jones, gourmet food retailers and various cafés