This time last year, crackers were riding high on consumers’ newly acquired frugality. As not much has changed economy-wise in a year, the cracker outlook remains bright. Manufacturers are taking full advantage of the cracker-happy climate, promoting myriad new varieties and pouncing on today’s eating trends.
This year appears to be the year of the healthful and even all-natural cracker, as the health-and-wellness wave continues to sweep through the baking industry.
“When consumers are looking for crackers, they are looking for great tasting, low-fat, whole grain, highfiber, low-sodium options that have a crunchy/crispy texture,” notes Jim Garsow, director of marketing and innovation for TH Foods Inc., Loves Park, Ill., manufacturer of the Crunchmaster cracker line. “They want a healthy alternative to traditional fried potato chips for everyday snacking.”
Linda Anne Marty, director of sales for Urban Oven, Chandler, Ariz., also has observed an increased emphasis on health, noting that Urban Oven uses only all-natural ingredients.
“I believe everyone is starting to pay attention to what they eat,” she explains.
Last summer, Kraft announced it would increase the amount of whole grain in more than 100 of its cracker products over the next three years, resulting in a doubling and even quadrupling of the whole grain content of some varieties.
Some companies have even tried their hand at turning the cracker into an acceptable diet food, as Kellogg’s has done with its new Special K cracker line.
And although health-conscious consumers are rediscovering the cracker as a weight-management tool, the cracker’s role as party staple remains undiminished. “We find that most of our customers use the crackers for entertaining,” Marty says. “They are looking for a substantial cracker to serve with a variety of cheese and dips–a cracker that won’t wilt or break and one that tastes great.”
Increasing awareness of gluten-intolerance has led to a boom in crackers aimed at those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Crunchmaster noticed the surging demand for gluten-free options early and launched a number of new products this year in response.
“Over the last year we have introduced five new items,” Garsow explains, “including a five-seed (with sesame, flax, amaranth, quinoa and chia seeds) product at Costco, a multigrain crisps item at Walmart and a sea salt multigrain cracker product for supermarkets.”
A non-gluten-free product also gaining steam is the hybrid cracker. Led by Keebler’s Town House Flipsides, these quasi-crackers have been a hit with consumers, and Pepperidge Farm recently put its own spin on the trend with its Baked Naturals cracker chips.
Even old favorites are getting a facelift. This summer, Pepperidge Farm introduced Goldfish Colors Neon, a new iteration of its iconic Goldfish brand that fits right in with the current craze for all things ’80s.
For cracker manufacturers, there seems to be a golden lining in this economic cloud.