The supermarket shelves offer a plethora of round, crinkly-edged crackers. Three of them are under the Arnott’s brand: Jatz, Savoy and Clix. The other, Ritz, is a Nabisco product. But what are the differences between them and which one came first? In Australia, Savoy Crackers were the original round crackers, launched by the Victorian biscuit company, Brockhoff, in 1938. If we are to believe the launch advertisement, Savoys were already all the rage in England and Europe (although I can find no reference to them in English newspapers until 1969). The copy read:
A new biscuit to intrigue the sophisticated palate – a new, delightful cracker that has “clicked” with smart people everywhere. In England and on the Continent, Savoy Crackers are amazingly popular at fashionable cocktail and supper parties – and for all those occasions when guests appreciate “something different”.
At the time, Arnott’s had Savoy biscuits in its range. However, they were something completely different – sweet sponge fingers that the Italians called “savoiardi” and the English also called “lady-fingers”.
Not to be outdone by its local competitor, in 1940 Guest’s Biscuit Company announced the arrival of Clix, made with “oodles of full creamy butter”. Clix were crisper and lighter, they claimed, which made them the better savoury biscuit.
Clix, too, had a foreign heritage. They were invented in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1932 by a company known as the Educator Cracker Company, founded in the 1880s by a dentist who wanted to “educate” consumers to crunch on crispy biscuits to improve their dental health. The founder, Dr William Johnson, was long gone when Clix was introduced to the range. Its buttery recipe wouldn’t have provided the healthy chew the good doctor advocated. To complicate matters, the American Clix were preceded by another Educator product known as Crax which looked much the same and lingered in the market until 1989.
The next of the circular crackers to come along was Arnott’s Jatz, introduced in 1952. In the 1950s, biscuit companies drew their primary market from their home states. Thus, Brockhoff’s Savoy and Guest’s Clix enjoyed popularity in Victoria, while Jatz became the savoury biscuit of choice in New South Wales. This was all turned on its head in the mid-1960s when a flurry of mergers saw the formation of Arnott Brockhoff Guest, which became the Australian Biscuit Company, which became Arnott’s again. Clix became a Brockhoff brand for a time, but when the Brockhoff name disappeared, Arnott’s found themselves with three similar crackers.
The last of the four brands to arrive on the Australian market was Ritz. Chances are Ritz crackers had been available as an imported product before 1968, but it was in that year that Nabisco began to manufacture and market in Australia. Ritz have a longer heritage though, tracing their origins back to the Jaxon cracker, made by Jackson Cracker Company of Jackson, Michigan, USA, in the early 1900s. Nabisco bought the company in 1919 but it wasn’t until 1934 that they launched their new, improved version with the aspirational name, Ritz. Ritz crackers, it seems, are similar to Clix in that they are softer, with a higher fat content than Savoy and Jatz.
Each of the brands has its fans, with consumer surveys showing little consistency in proclaiming a “winner”. The state rivalry and preference between Jatz and Savoy continue to this day which is why both remain in the Arnott’s range. Savoy is still favoured by Victorians, Jatz by the New South Welsh and Queenslanders. Debates about which is better can get quite heated. Arnott’s say the recipes are slightly different, with Jatz containing full cream milk powder and malt, while Savoy contains golden syrup. Both are produced in a similar way, with an extra spray of shortening after the first baking. And the packaging is virtually identical. Clix has been relegated to a sub-brand of Jatz but made it to the top of Canstar Blue’s popularity list, while Ritz (probably by virtue of a split vote) outranked both Jatz and Savoy.
I guess it all comes down to personal taste – and where you grew up.