Has The Grocery Shrink Ray Turned Saltines Round?

We don’t eat saltines all that often here at Consumerist HQ, but we are certainly familiar with the classic cracker’s orthogonal form. Well Nabisco is out to shake up the “stuff you crumble into your soup” market by testing a round version of its Premium brand saltine.

The round crackers are just rolling out now through supermarkets in New England, where they’ll undergo a 4-month test.

But while Nabisco says the shape change was to present the Premium in a “relevant and contemporary way,” Consumerist reader Philip pointed us to this portion of this MassLive.com story:

Beyond its size, the new Saltines come in a smaller box (10.5 ounces vs. the traditional 16) with different packaging.

Could this be a matter of Nabisco literally cutting corners? If stores are still charging the same amount for a package that is only 65% of the size, then this is definitely the work of the infamous Grocery Shrink Ray.

We don’t know what the stores are charging for the new-look saltines, but if anyone in New England sees them and wants to help with a price comparison, that would be awesome.

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  1. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    Ehhh… I’m uncomfortable with the idea of round saltines.

  2. Daggertrout says:

    So…they’re less buttery Ritz?

    • perruptor says:

      Or they’re big Oyster Crackers…

      • Daggertrout says:

        Oyster crackers are more poofy though.

        Mmmm, oyster crackers… *drools*

        • HogwartsProfessor says:

          I love them. They are not good for you in large quantities. Therefore I have had to refuse them to myself because I don’t eat just a few. *sigh*

      • mszabo says:

        Oyster Crackers have to be hexagonal though. I saw these at a wegmans in Massachusetts. I don’t normally buy Saltines so can’t compare to the unit price of the old crackers but currently they are $3.03/lb.

  3. caradrake says:

    There are plenty of fancy round and oval shaped crackers. Not to mention the super addictive rectangular Club cracker. Please don’t change my square saltine! :(

  4. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Keebler’s Zesta saltine crackers taste much better. Haven’t tried the elves.

    • NORMLgirl says:

      I thought all saltines were the same. Then my husband introduced me to Zestas. Their whole wheat ones are soooo good!

    • Sunrisecarole says:

      I so agree that Zestas taste MUCH better. Premium saltines taste like the cardboard box. I think this is just another way to shrink the amount in the box. Although, I can’t think of any recipes this will screw up….unlike SOME shrinks where the recipe calls for a 16 oz can of something, and that something now only comes in a 14.5 oz can.

  5. dolemite says:

    This is merely the alpha stage. In beta, they remove the middle and call them “Artisan Donutines” (6.5 Ounces).

    • StatusfriedCrustomer says:

      I’ve heard they are also experimenting with fractal dimensions (e.g. the shape is built up of a not-quite-contiguous spiral)

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      To whom do I send the bill for the coffee-soaked keyboard?

  6. CubeRat says:

    Sounds like Ritz crackers. As long as they don’t change the fomula, I like the soda crackers much better.

    As far as the shrink ray goes, as long a many consumers just look at the prices being charged instead of the price per unit, it’s going to continue. I admit, it bothers me with the staples that I buy, but not with everything. What bothers me more is the serving size….at least candy bars will say ‘serving size – one package’ I hate the single size packages that say 2 1/2 servings; or the yogert that says 40% fewer calories – BECAUSE the package used to be 10 oz, and now it’s only 6 oz. grrrr

  7. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    square cheese slices, square crackers. i dislike the idea of round saltines

  8. wade says:

    What’s with this “Grocery Shrink Ray” garbage? I want to know what MB thinks about Republicans!

  9. Blueskylaw says:

    I went to the store yesterday to buy some saltine crackers and found the grocery store shrink ray zap it from 16 ounces to 15.1 ounces. Twenty years from now, the NAtional BIScuit COmpany will be crowing about its one ounce package at the same low price as 2012.

  10. elangomatt says:

    Shouldn’t it be cheaper to make the square saltines though? With round saltines there would be bunches of extra dough after the circles are cut out. They can probably reuse it in the process but it still takes more handling to deal with the extra dough. Square saltines just get cut with very little excess dough (probably just on the edges). You would think they’d just shrink the size of the box if they wanted to use the shrink-ray instead of changing the shape and complicating the manufacturing process.

    • BigHeadEd says:

      My thoughts exactly, not to mention the collating and packaging equipment. Maybe they are converting an old round cracker line over to saltines, I think both use similar laminated dough processes, just different cutters.

    • speaky2k says:

      Having worked in several factories that made a variety of crackers & cookies, including the parent company of the brand in the article, all the dough goes though a die formation to cut them and put designs on them. All the dies are the same size so they can be interchanged depending on the line, and any cut remaining dough is re-circulated back into the main batch.
      Now the over-wrap machines would need to be retro-fitted to handle round product instead of square, but this would be a relatively minor change since almost all of these machines use old school technology and physical plates to shape things. So it would take swapping out the square former with round ones.
      The final boxing systems would work the same as they do today, round or square, the packs would just fall into the holes in a belt which then get pushed into a box.
      The Ritz & Premium crackers can actually be ran on the same packaging lines today, but due to cross contamination they keep the pre-packaged items separated.

      • perruptor says:

        Saltines haven’t been the same since they stopped making them in fours, and started with individual crackers.

        And they still haven’t got off my lawn!

      • raitch says:

        They come packaged loose, in one large bag within a box. Think a box of cereal, not Ritz crackers. No sleeve. I had to jam the bag into our square Tupperware cracker storage box. Weird!

        • BigHeadEd says:

          That stinks. I’ve always considered the serving size as “one sleeve”. Now I’ll have to either count or eat until sick.

    • Cacao says:

      To avoid any waste, you could always extrude the dough and slice off individual crackers. Like how pasta is made.

      • elangomatt says:

        Nah, saltines are actually a layered product kind of like phyllo dough, only not nearly as many layers. They wouldn’t have the right level of flakiness if they were extruded.

  11. Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

    This is how the end of the world begins…..

  12. Emperor Norton I says:

    All saltines are the same.
    Buy em at Aldi!

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      That’s what I do. ALDI saltines are pretty good. I really like Zesta, though, when I can’t get to an ALDI. I hate Premium. They’re hard and they taste funny.

      I miss Krispy crackers that came in the package and two of them were stuck together. You could make neato rectangular sammishes with them.

  13. Shouhdes says:

    I love saltines. I hate the idea of getting less of them in a box.

    • ElleAnn says:

      I actually like the idea of getting fewer saltines in a box. Until I started to make a meatloaf recipe that calls for saltines (which is delicious, by the way…it’s from food.com), half-full boxes of saltines would languish in my pantry for years. Other items that should come in smaller packaging: Salsa, sour cream, and pickles

  14. HalOfBorg says:

    Fold a slice of American Cheese in half, then do it again, fits perfect on 4 saltine crackers.

    NOW they’re gonna stick out! My OCD will just SCREAM!!!!!!!!!

  15. diagoro says:

    Overall it’s a shrink ray on the quality of life for many people…….

  16. tonsilpool says:

    They have been doing the same thing with waffles for years.
    It’s impossible to find a square waffle anymore.
    Now they are only .7854 the size they used to be.

  17. 2 Replies says:

    Such a misnomer.
    The grocer’s pricing decisions have little if any effect of the product manufacturing.

  18. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    I make my own saltines at home.

  19. XianZomby says:

    Hello Sunshine Krispy.

    You’re kind of a square, but you do have several good points.

  20. raitch says:

    I bought these at Target a couple of weeks ago. They’re weird. The texture seems different- smoother, they remind me of maztoh. They really don’t feel like saltines when you bite into them. I’m not a fan.

  21. coujo says:

    seeing as how soda crackers are made via a machine that rolls the dough flat and then perforates with a roller. it would actually cost MORE to change the die and have to collect the unused portions of the dough to be resent through the die. so Nabisco is essentially making the process more difficult and far more expensive. this doesnt sound like grocery shrink ray, this sounds like board room engineering….

  22. Sunrisecarole says:

    I so agree that Zestas taste MUCH better. Premium saltines taste like the cardboard box. I think this is just another way to shrink the amount in the box. Although, I can’t think of any recipes this will screw up….unlike SOME shrinks where the recipe calls for a 16 oz can of something, and that something now only comes in a 14.5 oz can.

  23. Galium says:

    I do not know if it can be called a shrink ray per se but, the round crackers are loose in a package. This allows more empty space between crackers unlike the stacked square crackers. This is the same issue that ritz crackers had quite a few years back. Stacked or unstacked that is the question. Stacked more product for the dollar or unstacked more air for the dollar.

  24. Golfer Bob says: