By Chris Meehan | Jun 16, 2014
Founded: 2003 (as an importer); started making crackers in 2007
Within about nine months of launching at a Denver Whole Foods in 2007 34 Degrees’ crisps were available throughout the U.S. chain—and that was just the start.
The company’s line of thin, delicious wafers were inspired by founder Craig Lieberman’s time in Australia where he attended Graduate School at the University of Sydney. He became an importer of Australian wines and foods to the U.S. under the name 34 Degrees—the latitude of Sydney.
Then came the cracker. “I would look at these unique artisan foods and check out specialty food markets and grocery stores and I came across these sort of wafer-thin style crackers. One of the reasons why I really liked them is they paired so well with the other products I was bringing in.”
Lieberman imported a line of the wafers from Australia for a time. But, “When we decided to make them ourselves…we decided we wanted to take the best of the products we were importing and the best of products that existed in Australia and make it, in our eyes, a better product with more unique flavors and what we thought would appeal to the American audience,” he explains.
34 Degrees hired a cracker expert to get the flavor and crisp right. “He was the one who really helped develop the original formula for us. It was really different in many ways than what existed in the marketplace,” Lieberman explains. “We had to take those original formulas and sort of modify them based on ingredients available to us here using local flour and local ingredients and come up with a formula that would appeal more to American audiences.”
“We developed flavors that had never been developed based on wafer trends we thought would be more appealing to the U.S.,” Lieberman says. “Our Rosemary crisps are actually our number two seller. That was not a flavor that existed with a product in Australia.”
They also partnered with Fresca Foods. “We’ve worked with them since day one on the crackers,” Lieberman says. “The beauty of their business model is they do all the production for us and all the quality control and logistics for us and it’s really allowed us to stay small and lean and focus on what we do best, which is on the sales, marketing and distribution of the line.”
Since the company’s beginnings at a Whole Foods its crackers have launched into national and local stores across the U.S. into Canada, Japan and Mexico. 34 Degree Crisps are found in Walmarts, Kroger chains (King Soopers locally), Costco, Sprouts and others.
“One thing that sets us apart form a lot of other companies is we go into the deli,” Lieberman says. Lieberman says. Deli departments, he contends, are more open to new ideas than the cracker buyers. Also, having the product close to the items it’s designed to compliment make it an easier choice for the consumer.
The company is focused on expanding its presence while keeping it fresh. It’s introducing new flavors out this fall. The poppy seed is neutral in flavor, according to Lieberman, but “The toasted onion is sort of this little wonder cracker. It’s kind of a more flavorful cracker like the Rosemary cracker.…It’s got a sweet onion flavor, it just tastes amazing.”
The new products are part of 34 Degrees’ efforts to widen its appeal. “We love what we’ve been able to do in the past seven years and believe we have a cracker for entertaining and pairing. But we also think that we have a product that lends itself really well to be more of an everyday snackable product.”
Challenges: Innovating and staying fresh. “How do you that in a way that stays authentic to the brand and the culture and do it in a smart way,” Lieberman says.
Opportunities: Get smarter as a business. “Do better promotions and increase our distribution in new stores,” Lieberman says.
Needs: “Backend of the business,” Lieberman says. “We need to round out that part of the team more to sustain the business.”