On April 18, we will observe National Animal Crackers Day. Who among us can resist the temptation to indulge in a handful of these childhood favourites? Animal crackers are arguably one of the most well-known foods on the planet at present. Who knew that the zoo and circus animals that delighted us as children would become one of our most cherished childhood memories and a simple guilty indulgence as adults?
The background of National Animal Crackers Day
Since the late 1800s, when they were first imported from England, where animal crackers were invented, animal crackers have been a part of American childhood memories. When recipes for the popular animal-shaped biscuits arrived in the United States, independent bakers began creating herds of them to meet the rising demand.
When Stauffer’s Biscuit Company began commercial production of their original recipe circus crackers in 1871, the stampede of animal crackers from grocery cracker containers into American shopping baskets was in full swing. Stauffer’s distinctive manufacturing method produced a slightly sweet, cracker-like biscuit that dominated the expanding animal cracker market for years. Then, in 1902, a major competitor entered the market, permanently altering the animal cracker industry.
When the National Biscuit Company, Nabisco, introduced their brand of animal crackers packaged in small boxes that resembled P.T. Barnum circus train cars, they soon became the most popular brand of animal crackers in America, despite not being the first to market with them. Initially, their inventive circus-train-themed packaging was sold as Christmas tree ornaments. The colourful boxes depicting exotic animals in circus train cars with a string for hanging on the tree were an instant success with the children, who begged for animal boxes with a string for carrying around. When all of the animals in a box had been devoured, children filled the circus car boxes with their childhood mementos, resulting in an unexpected shelf life extension and additional marketing for the Barnum’s Animals brand.
However, not all animal crackers are created equal, and despite the popularity and rapid ascent of Nabisco’s Barnum’s Animals to the status of the emblematic childhood cookie, many individuals still preferred the original Stauffer’s Animal Crackers recipe. There is a distinct distinction in texture and flavour between the two brands, and the market for both brands of animal crackers remains robust to this day.
Stauffer’s Biscuit Company continues to manufacture Original Animal Crackers according to the 1871 formula. Their strategy has been to produce a consistently crisp, layered dough cracker that is less saccharine than a cookie and more reminiscent of a traditional English biscuit.
Nabisco continues to produce its colourful, small-carton packaging depicting untamed animals, which appeals to young children. Animal crackers by Nabisco are slightly richer and softer than a traditional cracker or biscuit. Some animal cracker enthusiasts would argue that Barnum’s Animal Crackers by Nabisco are truly animal cookies and not crackers. In 1948, Nabisco changed the name of their product from Barnum’s Animals to Barnum’s Animal Crackers, a change that was likely unnecessary to maintain the product’s position as category leader, as evidenced by the product’s rapid ascent to fame and continued appeal to children.
On National Animal Crackers Day, we believe that the more animals in the parade, the better, regardless of whether you prefer biscuit-like crackers or the sweeter, gentler cookie-like variety. We’re unsure of the exact date when animal crackers were first given their own special day on the calendar, but on National Animal Crackers Day, we’re all about the animal crackers on exhibit.
Activities on National Animal Crackers Day
Participate in Animal Cracker Poker
Why not increase the stakes in today’s game and compete for animal crackers instead of penny-ante poker?
Animal crackers will surprise everyone.
If you want to spread affection and see smiles on National Animal Crackers Day, give a small box of animal crackers to everyone you meet today. Never neglect to indulge yourself.
Take the daylong immersion test
Have you ever pondered what beverages complement animal crackers the most? National Animal Crackers Day is an excellent time to conduct old-fashioned, nonscientific research. You should begin your day by submerging a few lions, tigers, and bears in your morning coffee. Then, throughout the day, consume copious amounts of water, tea, milk, seltzer and cold brew. After a day of delectable dunking, end the day by dunking the last of your animal companions in your preferred alcoholic beverage. We believe that red wine pairs particularly well with crackers of the original biscuit variety. Share your findings on social media.
5 Interesting Animal Cracker Facts
In the 1935 film “Curly Top,” the adorable round-faced child actress Shirley Temple sang about animal crackers in her soup, including “monkeys and rabbits, loop the loop” — however, rabbits have never appeared in animal crackers as far as we are aware.
Boxes of Nabisco Barnum’s Animal Crackers have featured 37 different animals over the years; the Koala is the most recent addition to Nabisco’s menagerie of 19 animals.
For those of us who have difficulty distinguishing animals based on cracker shape alone, Stauffer’s Biscuit Company’s website features a “Biscuit Animal Identifier” page with photos of the various animals they currently produce.
According to Stauffer’s Biscuit Company, the tiny holes in their Animal Crackers are known as ‘dockers’. These holes enable air to escape the crackers during the process of rising, thereby allowing the crackers to maintain their animal shape.
Under pressure from the animal rights organisation PETA, Nabisco retired its nostalgic circus-train-themed box in 2016 and introduced a new theme in 2018.
NATIONAL ANIMAL CRACKERS DAY DATES