Putting on the Ritz

I wonder if you’ll find Jake Klein’s history of the Ritz cracker at the Foundation for Economic Education as entertaining as I did? Here’s a sample:

When you last visited the supermarket, you likely walked past a box you’ve seen many times before. The Ritz Cracker has been a staple on American store shelves for 90 years, yet today the snack is often looked down upon; its mass-produced, corporate, and carb-heavy nature has fallen out of favor in an era preferring craft-made, local, and gluten-free foods.

But the Ritz Cracker is worth taking a second look at. There’s more to this simple snack than you might think.

If you look at the Ritz Cracker, you’ll see its round shape with a scalloped edge and seven tiny, evenly distributed holes. The golden-brown color achieved during baking is akin to a light toast. The taste is buttery with a hint of salt, and its thin flaky layers allow it to pleasantly crumble on your tongue with little effort. Despite its buttery flavor, the Ritz Cracker is actually vegan, featuring a simple ingredient list of flour, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, and leavening. The Ritz Cracker’s design and flavor are so classic it’s now taken for granted as the almost platonic ideal of a cracker. But to truly understand the Ritz, you have to look deeper than what you can see or taste.

Where did this simple yet classic cracker come from? It was a product of the Great Depression.

I would go farther than Mr. Klein in analogizing that story to capitalism itself. In a command economy the Ritz cracker would not have been developed at all.

3 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    Meh. You could say the same thing about any other food product. It’s easier to accomplish in capitalism but other countries also have interesting foods with higher and lesser degrees of capitalism.


  • Andy Link

    I’m not a cracker guy, but my kids love Ritz – so I get the big box at Costco.

  • Drew Link

    Dave –

    If you like that stuff, I think it is the History Channel that produces a Sunday afternoon show describing the history of all sorts of developments. Food, candy, pizza, iconic brands of all sorts, retail chains and concepts, industrial concepts and on and on.

    Its really a story of ideation, rejecting the conventional wisdom, risk taking, perseverance, risk taking, failure/winning, rebounding and adapting. To your point, no command economy would produce the vast array of consumer demanded options we have.

    Contra steves juvenile observation, sure, other economies have some hits. A blind squirrel……..

    Command economies dictate EV’s, rejected by consumers, dependent on things that don’t exist like infrastructure, battery materials in the home country, and reliability…… And manufacturers, after the initial fever, back off. See: Hertz, GM, Ford……

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