Grain-based foods companies have found crackers to be a category ripe for growth over the past year. Led by Mondelez International, Northfield, Ill., cracker dollar sales neared $6.7 billion in the 52 weeks ended June 16, up 4.5% from the same period a year ago, according to Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm.

Mondelez, with dollar sales across all cracker channels totaling approximately $2.35 billion, experienced year-over-year growth in numerous brands, including Nabisco Ritz, Nabisco Wheat Thins, Nabisco Triscuit and Nabisco Honey Maid graham crackers. Products that failed to deliver year-over-year dollar sales growth included several filled cracker products, including Nabisco Ritz Bits, Nabisco Ritz Crackerfuls and Kraft Handi-Snacks Dunk ‘ems.

Looking closer at one of the success stories, Mondelez in early April launched a line of Triscuit crackers made with brown rice in five varieties: tomato and sweet basil, sea salt and black pepper, roasted red pepper baked with red bean, savory red bean baked with red bean and roasted sweet onion baked with sweet potato.

“Triscuit is beloved and trusted for its commitment to simple, wholesome ingredients, but we know our enthusiasts are eager for variety in flavor and texture,” said Katie Williams, senior marketing director at Mondelez International. “Brown Rice Triscuit offers a distinctive taste, accessible to everyone, using exciting, real ingredients like red beans and sweet potatoes.”

With 21 grams of whole grain per serving, the crackers contain no high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oil, cholesterol or artificial flavors.

New products surge at Snyder’s-Lance

Snyder’s-Lance, Inc., Charlotte, N.C., has relied on a robust new product pipeline to maintain its spot atop the filled crackers category. Carl E. Lee Jr., president and chief executive officer, in a May 7 conference call with financial analysts said the company recently responded to consumers’ demand for more peanut butter with the launch of the Xtra Fulls Toast Chee line of sandwich crackers that he said “is performing quite well.”

Xtra Fulls, along with several other new products, helped generate a 10% year-over-year gain in dollar sales at Snyder’s-Lance in the 52 weeks ended June 16.

“We also expanded our Cracker Creations line with a new graham base cracker,” Mr. Lee explained. “We have also added spicy flavors, which are always very popular in a food category, as we launched our very first jalapeño sandwich cracker on a Captain wafer base, and my personal new favorite is a Chocolate Nekot cookie with both chocolate or peanut butter filling.”

Building a bigger pond for Goldfish

Pepperidge Farm, Inc., Norwalk, Conn., on June 20 broke ground on a $93 million expansion of its facility in Willard, Ohio. As part of the two-year expansion project, Pepperidge will add a new Goldfish cracker production line and 227,000 square feet of space.

Irene Chang Britt, president of Pepperidge, said the expansion, slated to be completed in the summer of 2014, was being made to keep pace with demand for the company’s top-selling Goldfish crackers.

“Sales of Goldfish crackers have been growing consistently during the past five years, and it is critical we expand our production capacity to stay ahead of this demand,” she said.
In the 52 weeks ended June 16, dollar sales of base brand Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers totaled $435,198,000, up 10% from the same period a year ago, while unit sales increased a shade less than 10% to 166,245,700, according to I.R.I.

Although the Goldfish base brand of crackers has performed well, the same may not be said for Goldfish Grahams, which experienced an 11% decline in dollar sales and a 15% drop in unit sales in the 52 weeks ended June 16, according to I.R.I.

Kellogg: Fresh flavors, new ingredients

The Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., is responding to consumers’ demand for snacking alternatives with the launch of fresh flavors, new ingredients and entirely new crackers. The moves should help boost the company’s annual cracker sales near $1.5 billion. In the 52 weeks ended June 16, Kellogg cracker sales totaled about $1.3 billion, up 2% from the same period a year ago.

The company’s sales were led by Sunshine Cheez-It, which increased 9% in the period to $612,601,700. On the new flavor front, Kellogg expanded its Cheez-It brand with the launch of Zingz crackers. The snacks are available in chipotle cheddar and queso fundido flavors.

Also in the cracker and chip aisle, Kellogg is adding Town House pita crackers in Mediterranean herb and sea salt flavors and Kashi all-natural hummus crisps made with a blend of chickpeas, whole grains, spices, and herbs, providing 4 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein. The Kashi chips are available in three varieties: sea salt and olive oil, caramelized onion, and sundried tomato basil-feta.

Kellogg also is continuing to expand its Special K brand with the launch of a chipotle lime flavor of its cracker chips. Each 27-chip serving has 110 calories. The company will hope the new flavor energizes interest in its Special K crackers, which experienced a 7% decline in dollar sales to $119,449,200 in the 52 weeks ended June 16, according to I.R.I.