Animal Crackers are cookies that have been around for more than 120 years now. It is still one of the most popular treats among generations and has stood the test of time. Those delicious treats that come in various animal shapes can cure any sweet tooth.
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Have you ever wondered where animal crackers originated from? Or who created it?
What Are Animal Crackers?
Animal crackers are baked treats that mostly come in the shapes of zoo or circus animals such as lions, tigers, elephants, and bears. There are different recipes and varieties of these sweets. However, the most common is the one with a light color and a little hint of sweetness. Most of the time, they are referred to as cookies because of their sweeter taste. However, because of their shape, they resemble crackers and are also marketed as crackers.
Cookies resembling animals were baked in the 6th century. The Yule Tribe on the territory of Scandinavia was the first one to create such cookies. During the Julfest ceremonies, it was common to sacrifice animals to the gods. However, poor people, who could not afford to sacrifice animals, would bake the cookies in animal shapes, and it was like a token sacrifice for them. They hoped that this offer would bring milk during the winter and early spring.
The great appearance of cookies was in the 19th century in Victorian England. However, they were called “Crisp Biscuits.” People loved them very much, and they were pretty popular back then. The cookies were imported from England to the United States.
Animal Crackers first appeared in the United States in the 19th century. It was a sweet cookie called “Animals”. People loved them so much that local bakeries started to produce them too. The first locally-manufactured animal crackers were produced by Stauffer’s Biscuit Co., located in Pennsylvania. The manufacturing process started in 1871. This company was the first one to manufacture animal crackers in the USA.
Popular Animal Cracker Brands
The Animal Crackers were produced by several major companies, such as the National Biscuit Company, Dozier-Weyl Cracker Company, and Cadbury. However, the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) is the largest and one of the earliest manufacturers.
In 1902, the animal crackers manufactured by Nabisco were officially named “Barnum’s Animals” and had a circus theme, mainly representing Barnum and Bailey Circus. The candy box that we have often seen was designed for the Christmas celebration in 1902.
Currently, Barnum’s animal crackers are manufactured by Mondelez International. Headquarters are in New York. Every year, they sell around 40 million packages of it, and the treat is exported to more than 17 countries.
Normally, the animal crackers were sold either in bulk, called “cracker barrels,” or in tins. People loved to buy the ones that were packaged in those small cartons. They cost only 5 cents each, and therefore, became the favorite treat of the 1900s. This type is still available today.
Since its appearance, a total of 53 animals have been added to the box. Today, there are approximately 22 cookies per package. Research showed that the customers loved penguins, walruses, and cobra cookies the most. Recently, the koala was added to the list.
In 2018, the brand released newly designed boxes of crackers. The original box showed animals that ate from the boxcar circus cages. This new design caused protests among many people. Therefore, in the new design, the animals such as the zebra, elephant, lion, giraffe, and gorilla were shown together in the freedom – African landscape. The little animal cracker boxes had a handle on top and were easy to carry around. It kind of resembled a little lunch box. And children eventually loved this feature.
In total, 53 animals have been featured since 1902. Cookies that are manufactured today are bear, rhinoceros, seal, sheep, tiger, zebra, lion, kangaroo, hyena, hippopotamus, cougar, elephant, giraffe, gorilla, camel, bison, and koala.
Stauffer’s Animal Crackers
Animal crackers that are manufactured by Stauffer’s come in the shapes of the following animals: camel, bison, bear, cow, cat, elephant, monkey, lion, horse, hippopotamus, mountain goat, tigers, and rhinos. Stauffer’s animals come in the flavors of vanilla, cotton candy, cinnamon, and chocolate. Some variations have icing. The Animal Cracker breakfast cookies are made with cranberries, pomegranates, almonds, and oats. Stauffer’s Animal Crackers are prepared with docked dough, and they taste a little sweeter.
However, crackers are mostly low in calories and do not appear to pose any health threats. However, make sure to check the nutrition data before you purchase the snack. For example, Stauffer’s Animal Crackers only have eight calories. Typically, there are 2 grams of fat in a single serving of crackers, or around 120. It all makes it an excellent treat for all.
Cadbury Animal Crackers
The Cadbury brand is also one of the largest manufacturers of animal crackers. They call the crackers simply “Animals.” Their crackers come in the shapes of crocodiles, monkeys, lions, tigers, elephants, hippopotamuses, and toucans. Cadbury’s animal crackers mainly come in the milk chocolate flavor. They are suitable for vegetarians and do not contain artificial flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives.
Cadbury’s “Animals” mainly contain wheat flour, vegetable oil, sugar, cocoa butter, milk powder, and flavorings. Per 22-gram bag, the product only has 97 calories.
How Animal Crackers Are Made
The product name was changed in 1948, and this time it was called “Barnum’s Animal Crackers.” Another big change in production was redesigning the visual details of cookies. If before then, it was stamped from the dough by the cutter, this time, they installed rotary dies. So, it became possible to engrave the details on each cake. With the use of rotary dies, they could create more intricate designs. This method is still actively used today.
Mostly, the crackers have a light color, and the dough is made from flour and is mildly sweet. Depending on the manufacturer, the crackers can be made from various ingredients. Mostly, for the flavors and tastes, the typical additions are chocolate flavor, chocolate chips, cinnamon, etc. This delicious treat is made by layering the dough, and it is often associated with cookies because of the sweet taste.
The crackers are baked in the traveling band oven, which is as long as 300 feet in size. The crackers are left in the oven to bake for four minutes. Per-minute, approximately 12,000 units are done. The crackers are made of strings. Every year, approximately 8,000 miles of string are manufactured. Today, there are three main colors of crackers manufactured: red, blue, and yellow.
It is very easy to make animal crackers at home, and it can be a very fun activity to do with the children. First, if the recipe is followed, one has to mix butter and sugar. Then the egg and vanilla are added, and the dry ingredients have to be blended all together. The dough needs to be refrigerated for 30 minutes or an hour.
After removing it from the fridge, it needs to be adjusted to room temperature before it can be rolled into the shapes of your choice. For a crispier cracker, make a thinner dough. The oven needs to be preheated at 350 Fahrenheit and the dough needs only to be baked for 10–12 minutes. The dough for animal crackers is very easy to handle with kids, and the result is beautiful and delicious.
Animal Crackers – Netflix Movie
You may have heard about a film called “Animal Crackers,” distributed by Netflix. The film was aired in 2017 and is a very good animated comedy-fantasy. It is based on animal-shaped cookies and tells us a beautiful story.
The film is about a family who funds a magical box of animal crackers. Crackers in the box can turn people into the animals that a specific cracker represents. The family has to save the run-down circus from the evil Horatio. The film is a very cute animation, and it gave a second life to Animal Crackers. It is a great way to relax and watch it with your kids while sharing mouthwatering Animal Crackers treats.
Interesting Facts About Animal Crackers
- There are a total of 330,000 cookies made in a single shift, which creates a total of 15,000 cartoons a year.
- Nabisco Animal Crackers could also be used as a Christmas tree decoration by hanging them with the little attached string.
- The original Barnum’s Animals were packaged in large tins and giant barrels – “Cracker Barrels”.
- One bushel of wheat can be used to make around 245 boxes of Animal Crackers.
- You may have noticed that Stauffer’s animal crackers have little holes in the middle. The holes are made to release air from the cracker. This helps the manufacturers to maintain the shape of the crackers and retain the animal outline shape.
Animal Crackers are fantastically fun and delicious treats for both adults and children. There is some kind of nostalgia connected to those fun treats. The Crackers have a taste of childhood and good memories. Despite variations in flavors, all Animal Crackers will make any sweet tooth go wild. While eating, each bite is better than the previous one, and it keeps going like this.
Nato is a content writer and researcher with a background in psychology. She’s passionate about writing about the candy industry and exploring the cultural significance of sweets and treats. She believes that the stories behind our favorite snacks can reveal a great deal about our values.
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