Market Trends / Cookies/Crackers

Crossover cookies and crackers

November 13, 2012
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You drive a crossover car, you listen to crossover musicians but are you also eating crossover foods? Chances are good that you will be. The lines are blurring between a cookie being just a cookie and a cracker being more than a cracker. Manufacturers are now producing foods such as snickerdoodles with a savory side and crackers that don’t need to stand under cheese or next to wine to be enjoyed.

More than just a cookie

Cookie manufactures are trying to sneak a sweet side into savory situations. Salem Baking Co. of Winston-Salem, N.C., has been experimenting with unique flavor combinations to make some interesting cookie varieties. Its Moravian Cookie line of flat, crisp cookies includes distinctive ingredient combinations like Ginger Spice, Blood Orange and Tangerine Orange. These, however, are just the beginning.

“More recently, we’ve accented the line with new, exciting flavors such as Pomegranate Lime with a Hint of Sea Salt, Toasted Coconut and Spiced Apple Cider,” says Brooke Smith, Salem’s president.

The new varieties are a part of a larger line that also includes Classic Sugar, Meyer Lemon, Pumpkin Spice, Key Lime, Chocolate, Cranberry Orange, Vanilla Walnut, Maple and Brown Sugar, Espresso, Mint, Caramel, Raspberry and Cinnamon and Brown Sugar.

It seems that Salem has created a cookie to satisfy nearly any craving, including chocolate.

“Most recently, we introduced a Signature Collection of these uniquely thin cookies that are dipped and enrobed in premium chocolate,” states Smith. “New this fall, we will introduce Caramel with Sea Salt Moravian Cookies Dipped and Enrobed in Chocolate.”

Other Signature Collection cookies getting a chocolate dip include Chocolate Enrobed Espresso, Chocolate Enrobed Mint, Chocolate Enrobed Blood Orange, Chocolate Enrobed Raspberry Heart-Shaped, Chocolate Enrobed Cookies with Turbinado Sugar, Chocolate Enrobed Sugar with Peppermint and Chocolate Enrobed Peppermint Holiday Shaped Cookies.

With so many varieties to choose from, consumers could spend their holiday season tasting each and every one by themselves, or they could use some inventive crossover suggestions from the company’s chefs.

“Our chefs have introduced pairings for simple entertaining, pairing our vibrant cookie flavors with fine cheeses, spreads and dips–elevating pairings that are typically made with traditional crackers,” says Smith.

Pairing cookies isn’t a new concept for Cookie Zen, LLC, which may be best known for its Cookies and Corks line—a variety of sweet and savory cookies that can be paired with wine. The Falls Church, Va.-based company took note, however, that many consumers enjoyed its cookies solo and wanted a better way to eat them on-the-go. So it took its two most popular offerings from the Cookies and Corks line—Zesty Lemon and Sea Salt Chocolate Oatmeal—and packaged them for the on-the-go consumer in its new CookieZen Bites line.

“These convenient grab-and-go cookie packages are certified Kosher, free from artificial preservatives, flavors or colors and have an extended shelf life of nine months,” says Leah Kuo, president.

While one might think the crossover within this company comes from its sweet and savory cookie offerings, it’s actually in the diet market where these products shine.

“These two flavors were approved by Weight Watchers in its 2011 holiday gift guide, so dieters and moms looking for a cookie to feed their children can choose a cookie that’s lower in sugar than most and also relatively low in fat,” adds Kuo. “One serving is two cookies and only contains around 110 calories, 6 g. of fat and around 2% of the daily recommended intake for cholesterol.”

Paring the portions

Single-serve cookies are an ongoing trend in terms of portion control and on-the-go eating. HomeFree, LLC, Windham N.H., has recently launched its Gluten Free Vanilla and Chocolate Chip Mini Cookies in 1.1-oz. single-serve packaging. Consumers can turn to this clean-label cookie for an allergen-free treat they can feel safe about including in their kids’ lunchboxes.

Utilizing fresh, natural ingredients is a top priority for Lark Fine Foods, Essex, Mass. Its crossover is making cookies that aren’t just for kids.

“We make Cookies for Grown-Ups, which implies, correctly, tastier profiles that are interesting, sophisticated and intriguing,” says Nicole Nordensved, co-owner. This can be seen best in its two shortbread options, which may give the Girl Scouts a run for their money.

“In March of 2012, we reintroduced two cookies previously only available as a part of a cookie trio: Burnt Sugar and Fennel; and Whole Grain Espresso Chip Shortbreads,” says Nordensved. “Burnt Sugar and Fennel Shortbread packs an unusual punch, with chewy, rich pieces of burnt sugar and the unexpected fennel. The Whole Grain Espresso Chip Shortbread is loaded with energy-revving espresso and rich chocolate.”

Salted Rosemary Shortbread is another sophisticated cookie that the company produces in its shortbread offerings. If you can’t pick just one to purchase, Lark Fine Foods offers a Shortbread Trio pack that includes one stack of each mini-cookie variety.

When considering cookies, chocolate-covered and bite-sized usually applies more to candy than  baked goods. That’s where Edibelles, Savannah, Ga., makes its crossover. “In September 2012, Edibelles took three of our popular original flavors and covered them in delicious gourmet chocolate,” says Madeleine Warren, managing partner. “We added Chocolate Covered Chocolate, Chocolate Covered Shortbread and Chocolate Covered Peach cookies to our assortment and put them in keepsake tins for consumers to enjoy.”

Crackers crossing over

While cookies are enjoying a crossover in many arenas, cracker manufacturers are also looking at ways to make their products more than just a partner for cheese or wine. Many crackers are being made to stand alone, using bold flavors and unique ingredients.

Mary’s Gone Crackers, Gridley, Calif., creates an unconventional cracker out of unique ingredients.

“Mary Waldner, founder of Mary’s Gone Crackers, created her cracker recipe using real, whole-food ingredients such as brown rice, quinoa, sesame seeds and flax seeds,” says Marjorie Merrifield, marketing director.

The company’s cracker line offers Original, Onion, Caraway, Black Pepper and Herb varieties, all of which are gluten-free and vegan.

Additionally, Mary’s Gone Crackers wasn’t satisfied to be just a cracker company, and has crossed over into the cookie market with its love Cookies. The gluten-free, vegan cookies come in Chocolate Chip, N’Oatmeal Raisin, Double Chocolate and Ginger Snaps.

“Moms especially love our cookies for their kids and themselves because of their super nutritious ingredients,” says Merrifield.

Another cracker company crossing into clean labels is Mediterranean Snacks of Boonton, N.J. Its HummuZ crispz are all-natural, gluten-free and made with garbanzo beans.

“HummuZ crispz are the perfect complement to hummus or salsa and come in three Mediterranean cuisine-inspired flavors: Roasted Red Pepper, Roasted Garlic and Olive Tapenade,” says Lonnie Willard, vice president, marketing. “With a 14-crispz serving coming in at only 120 calories, these are [a] delicious and smart snack for the health-conscious consumer who also has a discerning palate.”

Mediterranean Snacks is making sure that snackers on-the-go can easily grab its offerings by creating single-serve portions of all of its HummuZ crispz varieties.

“We recognize that consumers are often looking for nutritious, satiating snacks on the go and these portion-controlled packages are a perfect, wholesome snacking solution for them,” states Willard.

Snacking isn’t just for adults, however. TH Foods Inc., Loves Park, Ill., is crossing its Crunchmaster Crackers over into the kids’ arena. Its newest Cheddar Cheezy Crisps and Cinnamon & Sugar Grammy Crisps are the latest additions to its variety of cracker offerings.

“Crunchmaster Crisps are a tasty, nutritious alternative to regular processed wheat snacks,” says Jim Garsow, director of marketing. “With a blend of whole-grain brown rice, corn and sorghum, they’re packed with 100% whole-grain goodness and oven-baked to a light, crispy perfection.”

The new kid-friendly crackers contain only 3 g. of fat per 60 crackers and are saturated fat-free and certified gluten- and peanut-free.

Kid-friendly crackers are something that Pepperidge Farm, Camden, N.J., is quite familiar with. Any parent who has had to dig its popular Goldfish Crackers out from between the seats in the back of the car or from the bottom of a diaper bag can agree. Though the company already creates crackers for an adult market, its new Jingos! crackers target a more adventurous snacker.

Pepperidge Farm encourages consumers to “find your Jingos! match” by offering boldly-flavored varieties like Lime and Sweet Chili, Parmesan Garlic and Fiesta Cheddar,  a cheesy cracker with hints of smoke and chili.

A wave of change is here, as bakeries find ways to cross over into new markets with their products. Whether its cracker companies finding a way to create a cookie or cookie companies challenging the cracker at a cocktail party, these two segments are going head-to-head in the crossover challenge. 

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