This is why Auntie Anne's pretzels are so delicious

Auntie Anne's was born in 1988 when creator Anne Beiler started selling the pretzels at a farmers' market stand in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. By the end of 2017, Auntie Anne's had over 1,300 locations, and it continues to grow. It currently has operations in over 25 countries. While it's always been a staple at malls across America, it's even started to get in on the food truck craze and has even joined forces with Cinnabon. The two dough makers went in on a co-unit in the Bronx — cute! Oh, and did we mention mini hot dogs wrapped in pretzel dough? You're doing the Lord's work, Anne.

What makes this over 30-year old brand so good that it continues to stay relevant, despite trends like low-carb diets and declining malls? Well, it consistently delivers a really good product. The pretzels are soft, chewy and oh so versatile. We'd advise trying all the flavors and accompanying dips before picking your favorite. In the meantime, we're going to break down the reasons why they are so delicious across the board.

They are rolled and baked fresh at the store

A big part of the Auntie Anne's appeal is how fresh the pretzels are. A lot of massive chains of this kind rely on shipping frozen items to be reheated in the store but not Annie. The employees receive a "signature flour mixture" that they combine with yeast and water on site. After the dough rises, they bake them right there in house.

A person claiming to be an Auntie Anne's employee confirmed with comments in a Reddit thread, "We make all the dough from scratch… it's not frozen dough or pretzels. The mix is like flour, sugar, ect. [sic] Then we put it into a mixer with yeast and let it rise on the oven for 15 minutes." While technically receiving a pre-made mix isn't the same as "from scratch," it's pretty darn close and a far cry from thawed frozen items you'd buy elsewhere (we're looking at you, Starbucks). An added bonus is that none of the baked items sit out for too long. The same employee told Reddit, "Everything gets replaced every 30 minutes to ensure freshness."

The freshly baked and freshly rotated factors are definitely a huge part of the why Auntie Anne's creations are so fantastic.

The dough's secret ingredient is probably sugar

What is it about the Auntie Anne's dough that launched the brand into worldwide pretzel royalty? It's not like they were the first folks to ever make this snack. The mystery ingredient is still a top VIP secret of the company but founder Anne Beiler told The Washington Post in 2008 that her husband Jonas was the one who added the magic-making ingredient to the dough. It was a day when they were set to bake pretzels but the ingredients delivered weren't what they ordered. Jonas Beiler improvised and the rest is history… or at least it was, until the internet starting making copycat recipes.

Experts at The Daily Meal (via Fox Newssuspect the secret ingredient is sugar. This makes total sense, not because we're some sort of band of dough geniuses over here, but because sugar obviously makes everything better — and because Auntie Anne's pretzels are definitely sweeter than your average pretzel.

The baking soda is added in a very specific way

Before any Auntie Anne's pretzel goes into the oven, it's brushed with their special solution of warm water and baking soda. Baking soda is a common ingredient in baked goods but it's usually in the actual dough as part of the "dry ingredients" like flour or sugar. That's not the case with Auntie Anne's. In fact, they explicitly state in their homemade baking mix directions that you should not add baking soda to the actual dough mix. Instead, they mix hot (but not boiling) water with baking soda until the baking soda dissolves, then dunk the pretzels in that solution prior to baking. 

According to The Daily Meal, the baking soda solution slapped onto each pretzel is what gives them that signature Auntie Anne's crust. Props to Auntie Anne's for creative use of a regular ole' household ingredient. Clearly, it's working for them.

Melted butter tops every pretzel

Butter sure knows how to save the day. We love it in any shape but it sure looks its most beautiful when it's melted to perfection and glistening on some freshly baked dough. While the company won't reveal the exact amount of butter applied, Auntie Anne's definitely confirms that each pretzel receives a butter glaze after baking. The Auntie Anne's homemade baking mix recipe even suggests melting butter and brushing it on all the pretzels right when you pull them out of the oven. Who doesn't need a butter glaze from time to time? 

Of course, if you've got an allergy or other dietary concern, you can ask them to leave the butter off your pretzel. That's one of the many perks of them baking the suckers fresh right next to Hot Topic. Just another element of what makes these pretzels zing — good ole' butter. We'll never leave you, especially if you're selling delicious soft pretzels.

The smell alone makes them irresistible

The smell of an Auntie Anne's is unmistakable. If you've been to the mall in your lifetime, you know what we're talking about. That alluring scent isn't just a happy byproduct of pretzel baking — it's a calculated marketing ploy by many food vendors to get you in line at their store. It turns out "scent marketing" is a thing. The pretzel peddler knows the way to your stomach (and wallet), and it's through your nose. Joe Hubert, a business consultant, confirmed to Inside Edition, "You buy with your nose before you buy with your eyes a little bit. Every time you open the oven door you get great gush of great pretzel smell."

So part of why that pretzel probably tastes so incredible is because you're satiating the immediate craving that arose from that signature Auntie Anne's smell. If the fragrance is so enticing it can pull you out of a Gap dressing room in less than a minute, the grub is probably excellent.

You can eat them in nugget form

While the pretzel is the foundation upon which Auntie Anne's was built, the dough used to make it has taken on many other forms since the company's inception. Among the many pretzel dough variations, pretzel nuggets have apparently been a huge hit. In 2016, Auntie Anne's president Heather Neary told BizJournals that the pretzels they were selling in a cup in nugget form were surpassing the regular pretzels in sales.

If something is portable and comes with a plethora of dipping sauces, people want it. Neary said, "With a cup of nuggets, you can stick it in your stroller, and take it along as you shop…or you could give a few to your kids, and all share a treat." We definitely like the convenience of popping individual bite-sized nuggets of freshly baked soft pretzels down our gullet. The Auntie Anne's signature dough is super versatile but always delicious no matter how they shape it.

You can't get them anywhere else

If you associate Auntie Anne's as a treat your mom used to get you if you behaved well on a shopping trip, that might be a subconscious part of why those pretzels make your mouth water. Technically, you can make the pretzels yourself, but they might not be quite as tasty as the real deal from the store. When a Reddit user asked a supposed Auntie Anne's employee if it's possible to make the pretzels at home, the worker responded, "You could, but not perfectly. We make all the dough from scratch, but the dough mix comes in big packets that don't have the ingredients on them."

You can get an Auntie Anne's Baking Kit but even that does not guarantee the same in-store magic. But that's one of the many reasons why the pretzels are so good — they're a novelty item you can only get outside your home. If they were easy to just recreate in your kitchen, they might not be quite as melt-in-your-mouth good.

The flavors are constantly evolving

Not only does Auntie Anne's have locations all over the world, but it's also got unique flavors in those international outposts. To give you an idea of the diversity in pretzel flavors, the Auntie Anne's in Japan were selling Matcha green tea cheesecake pretzel rolls in 2016. Singapore locations have seaweed pretzels. Flavors are continuously changing on their menu in the United States too.

In an interview with QSR Melanie Auxer, Auntie Anne's culinary director, emphasized the importance of constantly creating for the brand, "We have a menu innovation team. It's an internal team that's responsible for leading all of our new-product development and testing. It's not just the culinary team's responsibility; we take a collaborative approach…" Limited time offers like Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Nuggets and the Sriracha Pretzels have been fan favorites. Auntie Anne's is always keeping customers on their toes with new flavors, yet another factor in why their products are worldwide palate favorites.

Auntie Anne's really considers customer input

Auntie Anne's really wants to keep their pretzel fan base happily munching, because they know if they continue to deliver, they'll continue to have loyal customers. But the customers probably enjoy the pretzel creations even more when they know they had a say in the creative process. The culinary director at Auntie Anne's, Melanie Auxer, told QSR, "We always want the consumer input. We recently had our Pretzel Nation Creation campaign, where we asked consumers to vote on the next flavor for Auntie Anne's." The campaign she's referring to is pretty popular, indeed. In 2017, 1.3 million Auntie Anne's customers voted on the flavor. The winner was Sriracha but S'mores was a close second. The 2019 Pretzel Nation Creation winner is Birthday Cake flavor. 

Auxer reiterated that their goal is to just keep consumers happy. "Within Auntie Anne's, we're developing products to solve for consumers' various need states. There are so many, but some of the things that are really important are freshness, convenience, and shareability." By consistently giving the people what they want, Auntie Anne's continues to please. Nothing tastes better than something that's fresh, low-maintenance and easily shareable.

Because Oprah says they are (delicious)

If Oprah is on board, so are we. Isn't that the law? Oprah Winfrey had never tried an Auntie Anne's pretzel until 2018 when her friend, director Ava DuVernay, introduced them to her. Oprah allegedly swooned. She immediately wanted to know what elite bakery created such an incredible bread product — and DuVernay blew her mind by stating, "It's called Auntie Anne's pretzels. It's just in the mall or the airport." Then Oprah probably had to do a Google search for "mall" since she no doubt hasn't seen one since 1990. 

For real though, Oprah's got good taste — look at all the joy (and new cars) she's brought to the world. If her endorsement doesn't send someone running to Auntie Anne's… it's probably because they already knew how amazing Auntie Anne's was. The pretzels are now Oprah approved though, so they just got that much tastier.