What The Company That Started Cheez-Its Made During World War I

The next time you're standing in the snack aisle at the grocery store trying to decide between the plethora of crunchy, cheesy snacks on offer, keep in mind that none of those tasty options would be available to you, at least not in their current form, without the military. According to Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, author of "Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat," everything from the artificial cheese powder on Cheetos, to energy bars, to deli meats, have their origins in keeping troops fed (via NPR).

In particular, Cheez-It crackers definitely wouldn't exist without the military. That's because the company that would go on to create the snack cracker started out making tough, cracker-like bread known as hardtack for American soldiers during the first World War. The rather unappetizing hardtack was favored over other types of bread due to its long shelf life. 

That company, Green & Green, supplied 6.5 million pounds of the stuff over the course of the war, using specially-made tins designed to keep the hardtack fresh and unspoiled. It wasn't until 1921 that Green & Green would leave the military contract game and finally create the cracker that normal consumers would come to love (via Cheez-It).

A brief history of Cheez-Its

Since they were first invented in 1921, Cheez-Its have been owned by several different companies. First, Green & Green was purchased by the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company in 1930, which then became the Sunshine Biscuit Company. Then, in 1996 that company was sold to Keebler, which was finally purchased in 2000 by Kellog, which still makes the snack crackers today.

Even after trading hands so many times, the Cheez-It hasn't changed that much. However, the way it was eaten did change with the times. For instance, during the depression cheese and crackers became a common substitute for dessert, due to widespread sugar rationing and food shortages (via Boston Globe). Later in the 20th century, the combination became a popular and economical kid's snack, even endorsed by parenting experts. This led to some of the classic cracker products we know and love to this day, like Lunchables

Though Cheez-It has experimented with a few different flavors, it wasn't until 2014 that a new cracker base, Cheez-It Grooves, was finally introduced. Cheez-It Snap'd, a thinner, crunchier version of the original cracker, arrived in 2019 (via Cheez-Its). The classic Cheez-It still sits on store shelves today thanks to a long history of feeding American soldiers and children alike.