CHICAGO – Occasionally, the family of Nabisco brands allows one of its step-children to appear without the familiar Nabisco red shield on the front. This is the recent case with the Mondelez International (NSDQ: MDLZ) product, the Triscuit cracker.
Current packaging for the cracker looks much more like a startup brand found in Whole Foods; at top, instead of the red Nabisco logo, there is a wheat field and farm. Through the package, lettering puts through the point that the products are wholesome. It is a far different approach than many brands redesigned in the 1970s, when packaging became minimalist, and product design was de-cluttered.
The Triscuit dates from 1902; it can properly be referred to a “step-child” as it was originally a product line of the Shredded Wheat Company, and predates that company’s later merger with Nabisco. Entrepreneur and inventor Henry Drushel Perky (1843-1906) founded the Shredded Wheat Company, which launched the Triscuit as a companion product to his Shredded Wheat cereal.
Shredded Wheat sold out to Nabisco, which added the red triangle. Perky had dozens of patents for wheat and food, and worked with other entrepreneurs to get the company off the ground. The Triscuit was seen as a wonder; it was also made in Niagara Falls, where the Shredded Wheat factory was a tourist attraction, and the shredded wheat cereal pieces were known as “little whole wheat mattresses.”
The brands are now divorced, as Shredded Wheat Cereal became a Post product.
Nabisco of late continues to appear as halo brand above its products, as the corporate name Mondelez means nothing to consumers, and may well confuse some into thinking the company is not American. The Nabisco brand appears on boxes, always in the top left corner, and also in end-aisle displays, as well as mid-aisle promotional displays; see slide show below for examples. The red logo does not always appear. A decade or so ago, some Wheat Thins appeared without the Nabisco shield.
The Nabisco brand dates from the 1898 formation of the National Biscuit Company, a merger of a number of independent baking brands. The Nabisco seal comes from a pressmark from the Venetian printers Nicolas Jenson and Johannes de Colonia, around 1480. That according to the seminal book Signs of America, by Hal Morgan. The original logo had INER SEAL in it to indicate that the product was sealed in a wax paper bag inside the box. It became the company’s trademark in 1900, and appeared on the company’s first product as its own entity, the Uneeda Biscuit. The designer Raymond Loewy updated the logo in 1952, to be used on all Nabisco packages. Loewy featured it in his book of his life’s work, entitled Industrial Design.
Such was the power of the Nabisco logo over generations that it was one of the rare times a logo became the slogan. The Nabisco “quality in our corner” slogan referred to the ubiquitous red seal.
Even without the seal, the power of the Nabisco brand can be seen in Publix shelves today. There, Nabisco products are offered and mentioned in sale shelf tags, even when the actual products do not have the red mark in the corner. That means that consumers know which products have been associated with Nabisco over generations. At one time, Nabisco sold a full 70 percent of the crackers and cookies in the U.S.
Highlighting Suppliers and Ingredients
The current interest in health foods, evidenced in the Triscuit packaging, is not new. The Triscuit came out of an era of health food worries in the early 20th century. Perky was a vegetarian, and health claims in the product came through in marketing. The current concern with GMO ingredients and manufacturing featured in Triscuits, echoes directly the product’s early roots.
The product is actually in a good place. Its product labeling is more detailed, and the versions of the product emphasize its non GMO ingredients, and origin of its production. They also have a wise promotion where they highlight the actual farms where the wheat is grown. This does a number of things for the brand. It increases the connections with suppliers, helps consumers trust the ingredients, and gives the farmers some needed attention.
One of the family farms features J & L Gremel Farms, and Joel and Lyndsay Gremel. They are part of a project of Michigan State University and the Cooperative Elevator Co. (Co-op), comprised of more than 1,000 family farms, to source the winter wheat found in the Triscuit. The Gremels:
It’s very cool knowing that some of the Triscuit crackers in grocery stores have white winter wheat in them that was grown right here on our farm, in the Thumb of Michigan. It’s very cool knowing that some of the Triscuit crackers in grocery stores have white winter wheat in them that was grown right here on our farm, in the Thumb of Michigan.From the “Meet Our Farmers” page of Triscuit.com