Crackers: Healthy versatility

by Beth Day
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Rosemary, Olive Oil, Italian Herb, Foccaccia cracker trends
Italian- or Mediterranean-inspired crackers are popular with options such as Italian Herb and Rosemary and Olive Focaccia.

KANSAS CITY — In the cracker category, products are usually made of multi-grain and other flours combined with nutritious ingredients like vegetables, ancient grains and high-protein foods. These better-for-you attributes position them well in a food climate driven by health and wellness, according to a Transparency Market Research (T.M.R.) report on the cracker market. The consumption of crackers has increased considerably worldwide. While the U.S. cracker market has shown only a slight increase, the global cracker market is likely to demonstrate positive growth between 2016 and 2023.

In addition to the health attributes, crackers’ ability to accommodate many food occasions is being showcased by noted restaurants featuring them as popular snacks on their menus. They are served alongside wine, soups, seafood and salads, contributing to the healthy growth prospects for the category, according to the T.M.R. report.

“In the cracker category, there are a few flavors that seem to be hotter than usual,” said Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director, Canadean Progressive Digital Media Group. “Rosemary was quite a popular flavor over the last year. Coconut flavors seem to be catching on for crackers, along with pretzels, which can be a flavor or a descriptive term for the mouthfeel of the cracker.”

Sweet potato Good Thins, Rold Gold pretzel cracker sandwiches
 Frito Lay introduced Rold Gold Sharp Cheddar Pretzel Cracker Sandwiches, and Nabisco launches a Sweet Potato Good Thins variety.

In a classic example of the blurring of the lines among snack categories, Plano, Texas-based Frito Lay’s Rold Gold pretzel line now includes Sharp Cheddar Pretzel Cracker Sandwiches. Made with real pretzels, the cracker sandwiches with cheddar cheese filling resemble traditional cracker sandwiches, but target pretzel lovers.

Sweet potato is also a burgeoning flavor to keep an eye on as East Hanover, N.J.-based Mondelez International’s Nabisco brand’s Good Thins launched a Sweet Potato version of Sweet Potato & Wheat Snacks, said Mr. Vierhile. As far as flavor blends are concerned, it looks like Italian- or Mediterranean-inspired items seem to be doing well on the new product front with options such as Italian Herb and Rosemary and Olive Focaccia.

Crackers are versatile and portable snacks for the busy consumer. They may be individually packaged and paired with any number of spreads and fillings to make them convenient, satisfying on-the-go snacks. Snyder’s-Lance rolled out Lance-branded filled crackers made with cheese and peanut butter offering up to 6 grams of protein and some whole grains making them satiable between-meal snacking options.

Lance Xtra Fulls cracker sandwiches
 Snyder’s-Lance rolled out Lance-branded filled crackers made with cheese and peanut butter offering up to 6 grams of protein.

“Protein is still important for people, and our Lance sandwich crackers filled with peanut butter are a perfect snack solution,” said Bill Hooker, vice-president, sales strategy, Snyder’s-Lance, Inc., Charlotte, N.C. “Consumers are snacking more frequently, and they are more conscious than ever of the nutrients their snacks provide.”

As consumers endeavor to snack smarter even when indulging, manufacturers will do well to offer quality snacks in on-the-go formats designed to minimize calories without sacrificing flavor, said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

Offerings of thinner crackers and cookies are becoming a popular way to control calories and portion size, allowing consumers to indulge without the guilt of eating too much. Mondelez’s Wheat Thins Even Thinner created crackers that are 14% slimmer, allowing people to eat 22 crackers rather than 16 of the original-size crackers.

Wheat Thins Even Thinner
Mondelez’s Wheat Thins Even Thinner created crackers that are 14% slimmer.

It’s no secret that Americans are snacking more, and how they’re doing so is creating change at breakfast time, said Jared Koerten, senior analyst, Euromonitor, who delivered a keynote address at SNAC International’s recent SNAXPO show in Houston.

Mondelez International’s 2012 launch of its belVita brand breakfast biscuit in the United States created a whole new sensation. The breakfast biscuit category is still burgeoning as consumers continue to crave convenient, better-for-you breakfast options, according to Mintel in its 2016 global annual review of the biscuits, cookies and crackers market. Recently, Snyder’s-Lance introduced its own breakfast biscuit sandwiches packed with whole grains and tasty fillings called Quick Starts.

“We know the morning daypart is critical for snacking, and Quick Start breakfast biscuits can be a meal solution in the morning,” Mr. Hooker said. “It fits the trend of breakfast on-the-go and portable snacking.”

Belvita breakfast biscuits, Snyder's-Lance QuickStarts
Mondelez's belVita breakfast biscuits caused a sensation, and other companies like Snyder's-Lance have released their own iterations.

Snyder’s-Lance offers Quick Starts in on-trend breakfast flavors like blueberry muffin, maple French toast and cinnamon roll.

The Quaker Oats Co., a subsidiary of PepsiCo, Inc., Plano, Texas, launched its own version of breakfast biscuit: Quaker Breakfast Flats. They are crispy baked snack bars containing ingredients such as oats, fruit, nuts, flax and sunflower seeds. Each serving contains three flats for fewer than 200 calories per pack, 18 grams of whole grains and no artificial flavors or added colors. Flavors include cranberry almond, banana honey nut and Golden raisin cinnamon.

Quaker breakfast flats
The Quaker Oats Co. launched its own version of breakfast biscuit: Quaker Breakfast Flats.

Snacking is more popular than ever, and consumers are not just grabbing junk. Forty-five per cent of Americans said nutritional value is the most important factor in foods they eat, according to a Packaged Facts report Sweet Baked Goods: U.S. Market Trends. While indulgence is important, consumers seek out more nutrition even when splurging. Products that are more natural, organic and gluten-free are also in high demand, along with ingredients such as whole grains, fiber, seeds and fruit.

Also among its newly launched products, Snyder’s-Lance has introduced a gluten-free peanut butter sandwich cookie baked with two crispy cookies and filled with peanut butter. The Lance brand was the first to create a gluten-free sandwich item.

Lance gluten-free peanut butter sandwich cookies
Snyder’s-Lance recently launched a gluten-free peanut butter sandwich cookie baked with two crispy cookies and filled with peanut butter.
In addition to being a snack or a meal replacement, crackers continue to evolve and provide yet another more healthful, baked option for those consumers engaging in the ever omnipresent snacking occasion. 
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