Animal Cracker Facts
April 18th is National Animal Cracker Day! To celebrate, we are dishing up some hot, fresh animal cracker facts!
“Animal crackers in my soup! Monkeys and rabbits loop the loop.”
Animal Cracker Facts
Animal Cracker History
These tasty, time-tested treats were first produced in England in the late 19th century. Animal crackers became increasingly popular in the United States after merchants began importing them. This newfound American demand grew and grew, so U.S. bakers took notice and began to produce them domestically.
Soon, companies all over the United States added the fun treats to their product list. Undoubtedly the most famous are Stauffer’s Biscuit Company, which baked their first batch of the whimsical snacks in 1871, and the National Biscuit Company (now Nabisco Brands) with their ‘Barnum’s Animals’ brand (a nod to the Barnum and Bailey Circus.) Because the usage of the “Barnum” name extends so far back, and because it technically only references the showman P.T. Barnum and not the circus itself, Nabisco doesn’t pay any licensing fees to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus company.
The original packaging for Barnum’s Animals crackers was large tins or giant barrels. (Does the term ‘cracker barrel’ ring a bell?) The now-iconic packaging of a box with a string was designed for the 1902 Christmas season. The innovative idea behind the change was to hang the package as a present on the tree. Today the Nabisco factory in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, uses nearly 8,000 miles of string per year on their animal cracker packages. This would almost be enough string to extend from the United States to Yemen!
Animal Cracker Production and Design
Originally the Barnum’s crackers were of a very basic design, with the crude outlines being formed by simple stamping cutters. Production evolved in the late 1950s with the inclusion of rotary dies. This more modern method (still used to this day) allows for more intricate designs on the animal themed crackers. These crackers are baked for around four minutes in a 300-foot conveyer belt oven, which converts to a rate of around 12,000 crackers per minute.
Today, Stauffer’s crackers maintain a more simple outline design, but you may wonder why these animals include tiny little holes in the middle of the cracker. Stauffer’s reduces the rising process by allowing some of the air to escape the crackers through the holes (called dockers). This simple trick allows the crackers to retain more of the animal outline shapes. The art of layering delicate dough leads to the product’s trademark crispy texture, so go ahead, break it in half and see the layers for yourself!
The history of animal designs featured in the crackers is long and diverse. The Barnum’s Animal Crackers alone have had 53 different animals in their almost 120-year history. Popular designs found across multiple brands include lions, elephants, hippos, zebras, elephants, monkeys, tigers rhinoceros and camels. The more unique designs include toucans, crocodiles, koalas, mountain goats and owls.
A single bushel of wheat can make approximately 245 boxes of Barnum’s Animal Crackers. This totals out to about 5,408 crackers per bushel. A single acre of Kansas wheat could produce about 226,380 animal crackers, which isn’t a bad start for a zoo if you ask us!
So as you chomp down on your animal crackers (pssst… we KNOW you go for the heads first!) just remember the farmers across the country who make these tasty treats possible!
Learn more about how wheat can be a healthy part of your diet from our friends at the Wheat Foods Council! Or, if you’re wanting some quick and easy snacks for kiddos, check out our Mini Fruit Pizzas, Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins and Blueberry Banana Breakfast Bars.