Cracker trends: Putting a halt to the slowdown

by Eric Schroeder
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Crackers
Cracker manufacturers search for ways to spur sales growth.
 

KANSAS CITY — Overall dollar sales for the crackers category slipped below $7 billion in the 52 weeks ended June 11, according to the latest data from Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm. The slowdown in sales reflected a decline in several sub-categories, including crackers with fillings, graham crackers and saltines.

In the 52 weeks ended June 11, dollar sales in the crackers category totaled $6,926,245,888, down 0.57% from the same period a year ago, while unit sales fell 1.5% to 2,594,698,240, according to I.R.I.

A 3.4% decline in dollar sales in the saltine crackers category continues a trend that has seen demand slip as consumers look for alternative cracker options. Private label saltine crackers experienced the biggest decline in the period, falling 11% to $137,909,952. The Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., whose Keebler Zesta saltine crackers are the second biggest brand in the category, also sustained a sharp sales decline, falling 8% to $52,596,348.

Keebler Zesta saltine crackers
Keebler Zesta saltine crackers are the second biggest brand in the category.
 

Another category that gave back ground over the past year was the graham crackers segment. At $428,381,408, dollar sales in the graham crackers category were down 5.4% from the same period a year ago, according to I.R.I. Mondelez International, East Hanover, N.J., the top player in the category with nearly 65% of the market, sustained a 3.7% decline in dollar sales during the period as sales for its top-selling Nabisco Honey Maid graham crackers fell 1.6%. The company also saw sales for its Nabisco Honey Maid Teddy Grahams fall 35% and sales for its Nabisco Honey Maid Star Wars Grahams fall 56%. The decline in the graham crackers category also could be traced to a slowdown in demand for Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Grahams. Introduced in 2009, dollar sales of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Grahams totaled $21,824,910 in the 52 weeks ended June 11, down nearly 20% from the same period a year ago, according to I.R.I.

The two dominant players in the crackers with fillings category both saw sales slip a bit over the past year. In the 52 weeks ended June 11, dollar sales of crackers with fillings at Snyder’s-Lance, Inc. fell 0.6% to $261,643,216, while dollar sales of crackers with fillings at Mondelez International declined 2.5% to $210,468,128. Overall, the crackers with fillings category sustained a 1.2% decline in dollar sales in the 52 weeks ended June 11, according to I.R.I.

Nabisco Honey Maid graham crackers and Teddy Graham crackers
Dollar sales in the graham crackers category were down 5.4% from the same period a year ago.
 

In a June 13 presentation at the Deutsche Bank Global Consumer Conference in Paris, Alexander W. Pease, chief financial officer and executive vice-president of Charlotte, N.C.-based Snyder’s-Lance, said the company is looking for ways to differentiate in the snacks aisle. One of the areas of opportunity exists in the cracker aisle, where Mr. Pease said Snyder’s-Lance is underpenetrated. Although the company has a strong presence in sandwich crackers, it is “basically nonexistent” in the categories adjacent to sandwich crackers, he said.

“We did introduce a cracker innovation aligned with the Snyder’s of Hanover brand called Wholey Cheese!, which is giving us a new set of facings in the cracker aisle directly aligned with a large competitor in that space, but there is still more room to go in the cracker aisle,” Mr. Pease said.

Snyder's-Lance Wholey Cheese! crackers
Snyder's-Lance recently launched its new Wholey Cheese! brand of crackers.
 

If there is a bright spot for the crackers category it is that consumers continue to seek out products that are broadly categorized as “all other crackers.” In the 52 weeks ended June 11, dollar sales in the all other crackers category totaled $5,063,452,672, up 0.24% from the same period a year ago, according to I.R.I. Four of the top five vendors experienced a decline in sales during the period, but Norwalk, Conn.-based Pepperidge Farm Inc. helped tip the scales for the segment by turning in year-over-year growth of nearly 6%, pushing its total dollar sales in the category to $825,503,680, according to I.R.I.

“Pepperidge Farm snacks continued to deliver strong results, fueled by Goldfish crackers and Pepperidge Farm cookies,” Denise M. Morrison, president and chief executive officer of Pepperidge Farm parent Campbell Soup Co., said during a May 19 call with analysts to discuss Campbell’s third-quarter results. “Continued Goldfish growth was driven by larger pack sizes and multipacks, increased advertising and the continued expansion of our health and well-being offerings, especially Goldfish made with organic wheat.”

According to I.R.I., dollar sales of Pepperidge Farm Flavor Blasted Goldfish crackers increased 5.5% and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Colors rose 6.9% during the 52 weeks ended June 11.

Pepperidge Farm Flavor Blasted Goldfish Crackers and Goldfish Colors
Dollar sales of Pepperidge Farm Flavor Blasted Goldfish crackers increased 5.5% and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Colors rose 6.9% during the 52 weeks ended June 11.
 

Mondelez International, meanwhile, sustained a 1% decline in dollar sales in the 52 weeks ended June 11, falling to $1,636,143,488. But the company’s Ritz brand performed well, with dollar sales of Nabisco Ritz crackers climbing 5% to $506,464,608, and dollar sales of Nabisco Ritz Fresh Stacks increasing 6.3% to $154,294,272. Mondelez also benefited from its Good Thins brand, which debuted in March 2016. At $82,545,712, dollar sales of Good Thins give the brand a 1.63% share of the market and are a key part of the company’s movement toward well-being.

“(The shift toward well-being) that’s been a key piece of our focus on renovating our base brands, like Triscuit, or introducing products like Good Thins as well as the launch of a product like Véa, which is a new whole grain product that we will be introducing in July,” Irene Rosenfeld, chairman and c.e.o., said during a May 2 conference call with analysts.

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