Party on a Plate
For years, crackers have been the primary go-to staple for snacking. Consumers can pair them with cheese and meat, and presto—they create a party on their plate.
Lately though, cracker producers have redefined what crackers represent to consumers—whether it be a standalone item or a complementary piece to a larger snacking solution. Either way, cracker manufacturers are sticking to their whole grain roots and providing a carnival of items that deliver both fun and better-for-you attributes.
Putting the fun in functional
When it comes to healthy snack options, you never know what you’re going to get, especially if they’re laden with better-for-you ingredients. But several of today’s cracker makers nixing those pesky stereotypes are putting the fun in functional.
For starters, in October, 34° Crispbread launched its lineup of whole grain crackers in 0.5-oz. single-serving snack packs. Each snack pack contains 8-10 crackers in a protective paperboard sleeve enclosed in a moisture-resistant film. “Consumers are looking for convenience,” says Craig Lieberman, founder and president. “We added a single-serving pack to fill this need.”
This month, the Denver, Colo.-based company launched Parmesan and Cheddar Crisps. “These crackers will have just the right amount of cheese in them to allow for snacking and also serving with dips and spreads,” he adds.
The cracker category is currently benefiting from an amalgamation of several consumer trends, says Jim Garsow, director of marketing for TH Foods, Inc., the Loves Park, Ill., producer of Crunchmaster crackers. “At the same time,” he adds, “consumers are no longer willing to sacrifice taste and texture (crispy/crunch). This has created an excellent growth opportunity for manufacturers such as TH Foods that has proprietary baking technology to accommodate these requirements.”
TH Foods’ Crunchmaster brand has expanded to include two new extensions to its Multi-Grain line—White Cheddar and Roast Vegetable—and two add-ons to its 7 Ancient Grains team—Hint of Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper & Herb. All Crunchmaster items are cholesterol-, sugar- and gluten-free, low in fat and sodium, high in fiber and are made with whole grains.
“We manufacture a number of baked snack products using our proprietary technology that have been popular,” Garsow adds. “By changing the shapes (i.e. into a triangle/tortilla), making them thinner and applying more intense flavors, we have been able to compete in the natural snack category as well.”
Snyder’s-Lance, Inc., Charlotte, N.C., also joined in on the fun by offering Cracker Creations, which are premium seasoned crackers with vegetables, cheese and herbs baked right into the cracker and donning a real cream cheese filling. The Garden Vegetable variety features the taste and aroma of tomatoes, bell peppers and onions, while the Parmesan Herb kind boasts a rich, buttery taste of grated Parmesan cheese.
“Our research revealed that consumers are looking for a premium snacking option that will excite their taste buds while keeping them full between meals,” Alvaro Trinidad, senior brand manager, says in a press release. “By baking the vegetables, cheese and herb flavors right into the cracker, Cracker Creations fills the gap for adults who want a sensible, fresh and all-natural snack.”
Furthermore, Kraft Foods, Inc., Northfield, Ill., hopped on the fun-filled ride by creating Wheat Thins Crunch Stix, under the Nabisco line. Available in Chipotle Pepper and Cinnamon Kick, these toasted stick-shaped snacks deliver 11 g. of whole grains per serving and come in a stand-up container for easy snacking.
Adding the finishing touches
No cracker is complete without the finishing touches, and for some, that means sprinkling on some cinnamon, dunking in chocolate or adding notes of spices or seasonings.
That’s why PARTNERS, Kent, Wash., introduced Mia Dolci Cookie Crisps crackers, which are made with all-natural ingredients and come in Toasted Hazelnut, Cinnamon Crisp, Chocolate Vanilla Swirl and Lively Lemon options.
“The industry has a great opportunity to participate in the better health of America,” says Cara Figgins, vice president. “Unless the snack food industry truly steps up to this healthier mind set, sales will slow. Innovators with healthier options will prevail.”
Bakery Americas, Bannockburn, Ill., expanded its Wasa Crispbread lineup to include Thin & Crispy Flatbread crackers. This team of whole grain thin crackers is made with all-natural ingredients, oven baked for a one-of-a-kind taste and delicately seasoned. Thin & Crispy Flatbread crackers come in Original, Sesame and Rosemary options.
“In many focus groups, consumers tell us that consumers eat crackers as a replacement for potato chips as they know potato chips are not good for you. We made our crackers very crispy and the texture and crunch are similar to potato chips,” explains Catherine Terry, marketing manager for Bakery Americas.
Plus, Thin & Crispy Flatbread crackers are packaged tightly in two separate stay-fresh packs to minimize waste. On the exterior of the box are the Whole Grain Stamp and the Bob Greene Best Life Diet stamp.
Under Minneapolis-based General Mills’ Nature Valley umbrella of better-for-you products are Granola Thins, delicate 80- to 90-calorie granola squares that feature crispy granola on one side and creamy peanut butter or dark chocolate on the other. They come in Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate, and are marketed as the perfect accompaniment to coffee or tea.
Meanwhile, Byron Bay Cookie Co., Australia, came from down under to create Wafer Thin Crispbread crackers. These crackers are ideal for entertaining or everyday snacking and come in Original, Sesame Seed, Pepper & Chives, Gluten-free Rosemary & Sea Salt and Gluten-free Original varieties.
Whether it’s a fun-filled cracker or one that provides the wholesome goodness to fit any health-crazed diet, the cracker aisle offers everything one needs to host a party on a plate.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about these and other new products in the cracker aisle, go to www.snackandbakery.com and check out our online new products section.