When French bakery Michel et Augustin arrived in the United States in 2014, its founders brought with them what they describe as a “kooky” idea: Invite people to visit, send them away with cookies to share with friends.
It’s not really all that kooky. Lots of businesses grow by giving away samples. But for these people, it’s practically a religion. If you go to one of the monthly open houses at their modern space in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, you leave with a bag, several packages of cookies, and instructions on what to do with them:
“In your hands? 18 cookies to share. There’s 1 for you and 17 for your friends, family, roommates, neighbors, colleagues, grandma, cousins, bus driver, poney club…”
Odds are, giving one of these cookies to someone will make them a fan. The cookies are really good. Few other baked goods found on grocery store shelves have this much rich butter flavor. Even a commercial baker friend that I shared the cookies with was impressed.
“We want to bake very indulgent cookies,” says Antoine Chauvel, who heads the Michel et Augustin’s sales effort in the United States. “We try to use the best ingredients in the market, very simple ingredients, basic ingredients you can find in your own kitchen – fresh butter, wheat flower, intense chocolate. No weird chemicals.”
Decadence like this is not cheap: a package of eight cookies sells for $7 or $8. And the company has found some grocers reluctant to stock their products because their cookies have a shorter shelf life (about five months) than cookies with highly processed ingredients.
So far, Michel et Augustin cookies can be found in supermarkets in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut Tri-State area, including Fairway, Gristedes, Westside Market, and CVS stores. The company’s dark chocolate and lemon meringue squares also are sold at Starbucks stores nationwide. (For an interesting account of how the Starbucks deal happened, check out this article from AdWeek.)
“If they like the cookies, they will tell their friends,” says Chauvel. “We believe in word of mouth.”