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When did cookie butter come out?

Cookie butter, also known as speculoos spread, is a sweet spread made from ground cookies like speculoos or Biscoff. It has become popular in recent years as a trendy alternative to peanut butter and nutella. But when exactly did cookie butter first come onto the scene?

The Origins of Cookie Butter

Cookie butter originated in Belgium and the Netherlands in the early 2000s. The exact inventor of cookie butter seems to be unknown, but credit is often given to the Belgian company Lotus Bakeries for first commercializing it under their Biscoff brand in 2002.

Speculoos cookies, which are the main ingredient in cookie butter, have been popular in Belgium and the Netherlands for many years. They are a type of shortbread spice cookie made with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and white pepper. The name speculoos comes from the Latin word “speculum” meaning mirror, referring to the image of St. Nicholas traditionally stamped on the cookies.

Biscoff cookies were first created by a baker named Boone in 1932 in the Belgian town of Lembeke. Lotus Bakeries acquired the brand in 1974. For many years, Biscoff and speculoos cookies were mainly a locally popular product in Belgium and the Netherlands.

The idea to turn these crunchy speculoos cookies into a smooth, cookie butter spread is credited to the marketing department at Lotus Bakeries. They wanted to find new uses for their Biscoff cookies to appeal to a wider international market. The creamy, nutty cookie butter was an instant hit when it was rolled out in Europe and North America in the early 2000s.

The Growth of Cookie Butter

After its introduction in 2002, cookie butter started to grow in popularity and spread to new markets over the next several years:

  • 2004 – Lotus Bakeries launched cookie butter in the United States under the Biscoff brand name.
  • 2009 – A cookie butter shortage was reported in the US due to high demand exceeding supply.
  • 2010 – Lotus Bakeries opened a factory in Mebane, North Carolina to produce Biscoff cookies and cookie butter for the US and Canadian markets.
  • 2011 – Speculoos cookie butter started being imported from Belgium into the United Kingdom and gained a cult following there.
  • 2012 – Trader Joe’s launched their own version of cookie butter under the Speculoos brand name.

Within just a decade, cookie butter went from being obscure outside of Belgium to being a trendy new flavor across North America and Europe. Its popularity was propelled by buzz and mentions in food magazines, blogs, and social media.

The Cookie Butter Craze

In 2013, cookie butter really took off in popularity, particularly in the United States. It developed a cult-like following, with people finding many creative ways to eat it:

  • Eaten straight from the jar with a spoon
  • Spread on toast, waffles, pancakes, or crepes
  • Added to smoothies, milkshakes, and ice cream
  • Used as a dip for fruit, pretzels, graham crackers
  • Added as a filling to pastries and cookies
  • Incorporated into cookie butter cheesecake, brownies, fudge, and other desserts

Food bloggers and social media influencers came up with many cookie butter hacks and recipe ideas to fuel the craze. Cookie butter shops even started opening up, selling all kinds of cookie butter-flavored sweets.

In August 2013, fans went into a frenzy when Trader Joe’s had a temporary cookie butter shortage. Resellers were reported to be selling jars on Amazon for as much as $100. This “cookie butter frenzy” was covered by major news outlets like CNN, showing just how popular the spread had become.

Cookie Butter Goes Mainstream

The cookie butter fad was in full swing in 2014 and 2015. During this time, cookie butter transitioned from an indie foodie obsession to a mainstream commercial product:

  • Cookie butter versions were launched by big brands like Nutella, Peanut Butter & Co., and Jif.
  • It started showing up in supermarkets and mass retailers like Walmart, Target, and Costco.
  • Cookie butter flavored products went on the menus at restaurant chains like Jack in the Box, Cold Stone Creamery, and Baskin-Robbins.
  • Nestle launched Toll House Cookie Butter Ice Cream in 2015.

Cookie butter had secured its place as a popular flavor in the American foodscape. It was widely available and no longer seen as a hard-to-find foreign delicacy.

The Decline of the Cookie Butter Craze

Like many major food crazes, cookie butter mania eventually started to die down over the next few years:

  • 2016 – Google Trends data showed that searches related to “cookie butter” peaked in late 2013 and had steadily declined since then.
  • 2017 – Trader Joe’s was fully stocked with cookie butter again – shortages were no longer an issue.
  • 2018 – Food trend forecasts predicted that cookie butter was moving past its peak popularity.
  • 2019 – Cookie butter mentions started to disappear from restaurant chain menus and new product launches.

While interest and sales have dropped compared to cookie butter’s peak hype years, it remains a beloved product with a loyal fan base. Cookie butter is still readily available at most grocery stores, and new flavor innovations like pumpkin spice or gingerbread cookie butter are released occasionally to maintain interest.

Why Cookie Butter Got So Big

There are several factors that contributed to cookie butter’s sudden mass appeal and fame:

  • Unique flavor profile – The combination of speculoos spice flavors and rich, buttery texture was new and intriguing to many Americans.
  • Nostalgia appeal – It tapped into fond childhood memories of stealing and eating cookies straight from the cookie jar.
  • Photogenic aesthetic – Cookie butter jars and hot fudge ripple effect on toast made great social media bait.
  • Fun, indulgent experience – Eating cookie butter straight from the jar with a spoon added an element of whimsy and permission to indulge.
  • Availability at Trader Joe’s – Being positioned as a Trader Joe’s exclusive added to its perception as a premium, foodie product.
  • Scarcity marketing – The manufactured shortages fed into buzz and urgency to try it.

Cookie butter was well positioned to go viral – it was the perfect storm of taste, marketing, and zeitgeist. However, retaining that initial explosive growth and hype long term is difficult. Once the novelty factor wears off, trends eventually fade.

The Future of Cookie Butter

While no longer the “it” food it once was, cookie butter has secured a place in the American pantry as a beloved comfort food treat. Here is what the future may hold for cookie butter:

  • It will likely maintain a small but loyal following of die-hard cookie butter lovers who buy it regularly.
  • New seasonal and limited batch flavors will be released to engage fans and keep the product line fresh.
  • Cookie butter will have occasional resurgences thanks to nostalgia-driven trends and rediscovery by younger generations.
  • The cookie butter flavor profile will continue showing up in limited runs of new products.
  • It may one day achieve something akin to peanut butter’s status as a pantry staple.

While the cookie butter obsession has cooled off, this sweet and novel spread is here to stay. Fan interest may wax and wane, but cookie butter has secured a place in the American culinary landscape thanks to its memorable flavor and nostalgic fun.


Cookie butter went from obscurity to a massive mainstream craze within the span of about a decade in the early 2000s and 2010s. Its popularity was fueled by an intriguing flavor profile, buzzy marketing, and scarcity tactics. While the initial cookie butter frenzy has died down, it remains a beloved product with devoted fans. Cookie butter is an example of how the right combination of taste and marketing can quickly elevate a food from unknown foreign delicacy to a widespread American favorite. Brands continue to innovate new takes on cookie butter to retain interest, ensuring this Cookie flavors of cookie butter goes from obscurity to a massive mainstream craze in the span of just a decade thanks to a perfect storm of taste, marketing, and zeitgeist. Today it remains a beloved comfort food treat with a small but loyal fandom – securing a lasting place in the American culinary landscape.