From basic salty crackers to fancy herbs and spiced breadsticks, crackers are experiencing major innovation. This includes experimentation with different shapes of the crackers, wild flavor combinations and bringing new textures to the market. The “thin and crunchy” trend has not stopped with chips and cookies; it has also penetrated the cracker market.
In 2016, crackers were the third-largest snack category behind salty snacks and cookies, according to data insights company IRI. This reflects a 1 percent increase in sales over 2015 when regarding all channels, but sales shot up for the convenience store channel, at +4.9 percent.
Gone are the days of simple salt or cheese crackers. Wasabi, squash, sesame, maple syrup, caramelized onion and a myriad of other spice and herb flavor combinations is causing the cracker category to explode in flavorful offerings. While cheddar cheese is still a consumer favorite, cheddar-flavored crackers are now offered in combination with items such as bacon, chia seeds, pecan and horseradish. While hot and spicy is a definite trend with the emergence of Sriracha, wasabi, chipotle, chili lime and jalapeno to name a few; sweet and fruity is making inroads too. Increasingly, crackers focus on the inclusion of fruits such as cherries, blueberries, mango, and apples. And veggies are also making an appearance in crackers, with ingredients such as kale, tomatoes, peas, carrots and more. Another trend is that of ancient grains, wheat, whole grain, flax seeds, quinoa and other grains and seeds.
From Angry Birds and bunnies, from Christmas trees to dinosaurs, from flowers to penguins, crackers get creative. Particularly private brands play into local market trends, such as Texas-shaped crackers. The most common shapes are:
- Round: 16.3%
- Square: 16.0%
- Rectangles: 8.9%
- Chip shape: 6.1%
- Sticks: 3.7%
Cracker sales is positioned for more growth, with Americans shifting to more frequent snacking and a majority of new cracker launches based on a health platform through the inclusion of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, etc.