Cookies and crackers are a large part of the bakery industry. Though they seem like very different products, they have a lot in common nowadays, including healthier ingredients.

Bakeries are seeing a rise in customer demand for cleaner products. While cookies are an indulgent treat, those made with “more natural” ingredients can lead consumers to feel better about their choices. “The trend of more natural ingredients, such as real butter as opposed to margarine, is becoming even more sought after,” states Jay McKnight, vice president of foodservice for Christie Cookies. “Instead of ingredients you cannot pronounce, Christie Cookies are [made of] 100% real butter, real vanilla, gourmet chocolates and so on. We often refer to this as a ‘healthful indulgence.’”

The Nashville, Tenn., company recently released two new flavors that fall into the clean-label cookie category: Island Chocolate Delight; and Southern Butter Pecan. “Southern Butter Pecan boasts loads of Georgia pecans, brown sugar and Heath toffee bits and only uses real butter,” McKnight points out. “Island Chocolate Delight is an exotic, unique blend of dark chocolate chunks, sweetened coconut flakes and fresh macadamia nuts.” Other Christie Cookie offerings include Chocolate Chip, White Chocolate Macadamia Nut, Oatmeal Raisin and Rocky Road.

“You can taste the difference as well as see the difference between our cookies and cookies made with lower-quality ingredients,” he adds. “We are fortunate that clean, pure ingredients are part of our culture here and have always been.”

Another company taking advantage of consumer demand for “real” ingredients is YZ Enterprises, which creates Almondina Toastees. “Consumers like to know they’re eating something not made from a lot of artificial ingredients,” says Jason Markham, vice president of sales and marketing for the Maumee, Ohio-based company. “With our cookies, you can see what you’re getting. You can see the almonds and fruit. We use only a handful of real ingredients in our products and consumers appreciate it.”

The Almondina Toastees, which launched in October, are similar to the company’s original Almondina cookies, but are bite-sized. “The recipe is a little bit different, and it’s a little lighter and crispier,” Markham says. “They’re somewhere between a cookie and a cracker and can be used in a lot of different ways.”

Offered in a resealable, stand-up pouch, the cookies are well-suited for on-the-go snacking. At only 60-70 calories per serving, they come in a variety of Toastees options: Cranberry Almond; Sesame Almond; Lemon Poppy Almond; and Coconut Orange Almond. “Our product has always been marked as ‘The Delicious Cookie Without the Guilt,’” states Markham. “They’re a much better snack option for kids.”

Kellogg’s Keebler brand is also taking advantage of the natural cookie trend with its new Simply Made Cookies. “New Keebler Simply Made Cookies are baked with simple, recognizable ingredients, including wheat flour, butter, eggs, sugar and vanilla, reflecting the desire of some consumers for simpler foods,” notes Brad Goist, vice president and general manager of cookies and crackers marketing for the Battle Creek, Mich., company. The new Simply Made cookies come in Chocolate Chip and Butter options.

Biscomerica Corp.’s Sun-Maid brand also recognizes consumers’ desire for more healthful ingredients. It recently added an Oatmeal Raisin Apple cookie to its cookie line, which includes an Oatmeal Raisin cookie. Kathy O’Brien, vice president of sales and marketing, recognizes that the greatest opportunity for the Rialto, Calif., company’s brands is to offer options with healthy selling points and ingredients.


Crackers go gluten-free

While cookie manufacturers are exploring using more natural ingredients, the big trend among crackers is gluten-free. “Consumers are now looking for all-natural alternatives to traditional processed wheat cookies and crackers,” says Dani Amman, marketing manager for TH Foods Inc., Love Park, Ill. “Interest in nonGenetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and gluten-free products continues to grow.”

The company’s Crunchmaster Crackers cater to this segment. TH Foods offers Multi-Seed Crackers in Original, Roasted Garlic and Rosemary and Olive Oil; Multi-Grain Crackers in Sea Salt, Roasted Vegetable and White Cheddar; and 7 Ancient Grains Crackers in Hint of Sea Salt.

“Crunchmaster uses proprietary rice baking techniques, and we use pure, all-natural ingredients,” states Amman “The result? Great tasting crackers with an incredible crunch.”

Another company recognizing the importance of gluten-free products is Partners, a Tasteful Choice Co., of Kent, Wash.

“The product trend still growing with consumers is gluten-free,” states Cara Figgins, executive vice president. “As more people learn about eating a gluten-free diet or even a reduced-gluten diet, manufacturers are coming out with products to meet the demand.”

Partners’ new Free for All Kitchen line offers a variety of gluten-free products, including Gluten Free Crackers available in 5-oz. cartons, 5.5-oz. wrapped deli trays and individual 0.75-oz. snack packs. Flavors include Roasted Garlic Rosemary, Olive Oil Herb and Olive Oil Sea Salt varieties.


Seeds of success

But gluten-free isn’t the only way to create a healthful, more natural cracker. Some manufacturers lean on seed and grains. WASA North America LLC, Bannockburn, Ill., has developed a new line of Flax Seed Crispbread for consumers to enjoy. “Wasa Flax Seed is a nutritious and wholesome crispbread that you can enjoy at any time throughout the day,” observes Greg Arseneau, brand manager. “The hearty flavors and delicate crunch provide the perfect canvas for your favorite toppings and make a versatile, delicious meal.”

Mary’s Gone Crackers, Gridley, Calif., which has always offered a seed- and grain-based cracker, recently added new Super Seed Crackers, made with brown rice, quinoa, flax seeds and sesame seeds, to its product base. “We’ve found ways to distinguish our products from others and then continue to educate consumers as to their taste and nutrition benefits,” explains founder Mary Waldner.

One new distinction is the company’s Hot ‘n Spicy Jalapeno gluten-free crackers, which offer a subtle kick of heat. “With the rise in consciousness around gluten-free and organic, consumers are really on board with choosing alternatives that, of course, taste great and offer better nutrition,” Waldner explains. Other Mary’s Gone Crackers flavors are Original, Onion, Caraway, Black Pepper and Herb.

Seeds aren’t the only thing creeping into crackers. Funley’s Delicious, Los Angeles, is sneaking vegetables into its crackers to better appeal to parents. As a bonus, the varieties appeal to kids, too. “When we launched our Super Crackers line, our focus was on innovation of the category, so we hid superfood veggies inside,” states Ashley Mendel, co-founder and COO.

The Super Crackers come in on-the-go packs, a great fit for lunchboxes or an easy-to-grab item before running out the door. The kid-friendly options include Cheddar n’ Stuff with hidden broccoli, Pizza n’ Stuff with hidden carrots, Cornbread n’ Stuff with hidden sweet potatoes, and Ranch n’ Stuff with hidden spinach.

“Funley’s Super Crackers are the original superfood veggie crackers and deliver a good source of vitamin D, calcium and iron,” states Mendel. “Our products have the taste that appeals to the whole family and the benefits moms want.”


Sandwiches anyone?

Making options that kids and parents love is a big win for many companies, including Snyder’s-Lance Inc., Charlotte, N.C. To celebrate the brand’s 100th anniversary, Snyder’s-Lance launched a variety of new lunchbox-ready crackers: Lance Xtra Fulls Toasty and Lance Xtra Fulls Toastchee sandwich crackers. “The new sandwich cracker varieties made with real, whip-churned peanut butter that we make freshly-ground in Georgia offer up to 6 g. of protein per serving,” explains Tom Ingram, senior brand director of Lance sandwich crackers.

The company is also extending its sandwich cracker offerings with its new Cracker Creations line of granola-based crackers stuffed with peanut butter or chocolate filling. There is also a new Whole Grain line of sandwich crackers in Peanut Butter, Cheddar Cheese and Sharp Cheddar Cheese. “Sandwich crackers provide a snacking option that’s more satisfying than a lot of other products in the market,” Ingram states. “Lance products in particular, because they’re made with real, wholesome ingredients such as real cheese and real peanut butter, are a fulfilling snack option that moms can feel good about choosing for their families.”

Creating a product that everyone—from moms to dieters to kids—can feel good about eating is a key factor for cookie and cracker manufacturers. These new options are the forefront of what could be a continued focus on better-for-you products in the marketplace.