Standard cookies still lead the $5.9bn market, representing 57.5 per cent of sales, however, this category lost ground over the five year period, suggesting that more specialised cookies are gaining in popularity, Mintel said. The health trend, not surprisingly, still proves profitable for cookie makers across the country. According to Mintel, sales of "health orientated cookies" grew steadily between 2002 and 2007, gaining 20 per cent in current value. The category experienced particularly strong increases in 2005 and 2006, pushing segment sales up 9.6 per cent and 8.2 per cent respectively, the report added. Within this category, consumers have looked for what they consider to be healthy, natural and organic ingredients, as well as smaller portion sizes. "In fact, the general increased health awareness has been good for segment sales, as consumers non longer try to avoid cookies, but do often try to make better choices within the category," Mintel said. Another category selling particularly well is cookie bars, with the segment growing by 57 per cent over the five year period, according to the data. The report added that future growth could be driven by cookie bars, and that new manufacturers may enter the category offering hybrid product lines such as energy and meal replacement cookie bars. Conversely, sales of premium and luxury cookies are now slowing, Mintel said. "The crux of the issue is not that consumers do not demand indulgent cookies, but the premium genre will move towards upping the culinary ante in the cookie bar segment as well as health orientated cookies, causing a blurring of segment lines," the researchers claimed. However, companies should not give up on this category altogether, as cookies consumers are embracing more worldly and sophisticated tastes, indicating a burgeoning market for ethnic products, Mintel said. Furthermore, manufacturers should pay attention to changing US demographics, as sex and age both have an affect on consumer preference, the researchers added. According to the report, the 55 to 64 age group will experience the strongest consumption growth up to 2012, by prefering treats that contain heart-healthy dark chocolate, antioxidant-rich fruits, and nuts and whole grains. The findings also suggested that men apparently eat cookies more often than women, indicating opportunities for more "manly snacks", such as oversize cookies with large chunks or chocolates or nuts.