Crackers’ versatility and consumers’ interest in snacking have kept this category steady. However, the market is flooded with competitive snack options, according to Mintel’s “2019 Crackers” report. Producers would do well to create new, ethnically inspired flavor combinations and consider better-for-you (BFY) innovations like organic, alternative-based crackers with free-from claims.

While cracker sales were somewhat flat, the category earned $6.9 billion in sales in the U.S. snack market for the 52 weeks ended June 16, 2019, according to Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm. There were pockets of growth in cheese crackers, crisps and thins, and BFY options.

“Hero ingredients,” or perceived superfoods, added to the category’s results. Mondelez International, Deerfield, Ill., upped its hero ingredient game by weaving quinoa seeds into its latest Triscuit offering, a higher-profile use of this ancient grain instead of crushing them in the mix.

Triscuit Quinoa Seeds Basil & Garlic Crackers offer flavor innovation and ingredients like 100% whole wheat. Triscuit Thin Crisps made a strong showing with 19.6% dollar sales growth, according to I.R.I.

Cracker manufacturers are innovating with different textures like waves and ridges. Cheez-It, produced by The Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., now offers Snap’d Baked Snacks Crackers, a thin and flavorful baked snack that is made with 100% cheese. This new line of Cheez-Its is available in four flavors: Double cheese, cheddar sour cream and onion, white cheddar and bacon, and Jalapeño Jack flavor.

“The traditional square cracker can be boring, so new shapes and formats are proliferating,” Mr. Vierhile said. “Crackers are extremely versatile, and snack producers have the opportunity to move in on the chip category by playing with size, shape, texture and flavors.”

Nabisco’s Triscuit brand innovated outside the box with its Wheatberry Clusters, the brand’s first non-cracker, made with nuts, seeds and dried fruit for the health-conscious consumer. Wheatberry Clusters come in two varieties: Pumpkin Seeds & Sweet Corn and Cranberries & Cashews. Both deliver appealing health claims like ‘real food,’ plant-based, clean label and low sugar. They also offer an on-the-go format popular with younger consumers.

Added protein can also boost cracker sales as 22% of consumers are looking for crackers with extra protein, according to an IFIC 2016 survey on food. Sixty per cent of millennials are seeking protein snacks that are both nutritious and on-the-go-options.

Fiber is another health halo for crackers. Consumers are still mainly consuming fiber for digestive health, but newly discovered benefits of dietary fiber are driving applications, too, according to Innova Market Insights Top 10 Trends for 2019.

Crackers are not the typical choice for adult snacks, and innovation with adults in mind can help shake things up, according to Mintel. Ethnically inspired flavors or pairing crackers with dips and hummus or other whole foods, like cheese and meats, can raise adult awareness for the category. However, families and children are still important consumers for cracker producers.

Camden, N.J.-based Campbell Snacks’ Pepperidge Farm Goldfish brand created some excitement this summer with its limited-edition Toy Story 4 Goldfish. Inside the special edition packaging, the classic baked cheddar crackers are shaped like Toy Story’s iconic characters, Buzz Lightyear, Woody and Little Bo Peep.

This article originally appeared in SNAC International's 2019 Official State of the Industry.