A local foodie’s quest to recreate her favorite discontinued cracker led a trio of longtime friends to build their own company, serving up specialty appetizer kits that customers are savoring in Kansas City and beyond.
Crackerology produces shelf-stable, gourmet appetizer and dessert kits featuring made-from-scratch crackers and cookies that can be assembled in minutes.
“Yes, we make delicious crackers, but really we create experiences,” said Janine Akers, partner at Crackerology. “We’re not just about laying out food that’s yummy; we’re about interacting together, adding toppings, and creating more of an experience than just a snack.”
Crackerology offers five appetizer kits and three dessert kits, each available in a full-size and snack size option. The full-size kit can comfortably feed four to six people, Akers said, while the snack size is intended to feed two.
All products can be purchased on the company’s website and shipped anywhere in the United States and Canada.
Beyond direct-to-consumer sales, Crackerology sells its products to a number of wineries, microbreweries, distilleries, and charcuterie companies, Akers said, noting that many businesses are attracted to their products because of their consistent and easy-to-main shelf life.
“Everything we bring to market is shelf-stable,” Akers said. “We started our customer journey with wineries, microbreweries, distilleries — people who had limited refrigeration. They wanted low management snacks; they wanted low management products.”
“So when we started out with our kits, the goal was to bring something that was easy to ship, easy to store, easy for our customers to buy, easy for our customers to manage,” Akers continued. “We wanted a long shelf-life for something delicious that didn’t require refrigeration, and that is no easy feat.”
Though it may not have been easy, Akers believes she and her friends-turned-business-partners — DeAnne Dodd and Shelley Reed — have found the perfect recipe for success.
“We know what it takes; we know the hours and the work it takes to do something like this, and we’re willing to do it,” Akers said. “What we do is not easy. It’s not been easy, but it’s doable and it’s enjoyable.”
Three-legged kitchen stool
The Crackerology story began in December 2020, as Akers, Dodd, and Reed gathered for an evening of cards and appetizers.
Akers, a self-described foodie and the company’s “chief crackerologist,” had recently learned that the company that manufactured her favorite red wine and rosemary cracker was going out of business.
Undaunted, she decided she’d try replicating — and improving — the cracker herself.
“I started making it at home for my family, and we just loved it,” Akers said. “So when the opportunity arose, I reached out to these friends and said, ‘Hey, you guys, there is no red wine and rosemary cracker on the market, and I think we can do something with this.’”
By July 1, 2021, Crackerology brought its flagship red wine and rosemary cracker to market, which immediately received positive feedback, Akers recalled.
On an early July road trip with some friends, Akers shared sample kits at a few wineries, she said.
“Of the three places I dropped the samples, by 8 o’clock that night, one of them had already ordered,” Akers recalled. “So we knew that we were onto something.”
Just one year later, the red wine and rosemary cracker kit received a 2022 sofi Award as best new product in the category of appetizers and snacks.
Akers attributed the company’s success to its “perfect three-legged stool” leadership team, noting that she believes they could have thrived in any industry.
“We could have opened up a mechanic shop, woodworking, a salad bowl creation company — it could have been anything,” Akers said. “We happened to choose crackers and snacks.”
Reed brings financial and legal expertise; Dodd handles all the branding, marketing, and creative needs; Akers leans on her previous entrepreneurial success — she built and sold a medical records company — to focus on sales and operations.
The company’s two other full-time employees and a team of volunteers on standby all understand that honesty, trust, and open communication are the hallmarks of Crackerology, according to Akers.
“We definitely have a lot of honesty and willingness to be open,” she said. “I’d rather somebody talk to me than about me. … Nobody likes confrontation, but it’s not confrontational to talk to someone instead of about them. As we build our team, that’s our philosophy.”
Though the team remains small for now, Akers shared that she has lofty goals for Crackerology in the years to come.
“We are excited for the next five years,” Akers said. “We think we’re gonna bring more different products to the market.”
Crackerology operates a production facility in North Kansas City and is regulated as a food manufacturer by the state of Missouri, Akers said.
Beyond its direct-to-consumer and B2B sales, Crackerology has also expanded into corporate gifting and gift boutiques, Akers said, adding that the kits make great gifts.
Most recently, the company began partnering with schools, youth sports teams, religious groups, and other organizations for fundraising programs, she added.
“We want to be able to put a really hefty profit back in their organizations,” Akers said. “We’re all moms, so we want to support families and organizations. We’re happy to donate to auctions and fundraisers.”
“We love the Kansas City community,” she continued. “There’s so many people who do great things for the people in this community, so if we can help in our little way, we’re happy to.”
As she reflects on the journey so far, Akers admitted that although things haven’t always gone as anticipated, the rewards have far outweighed the challenges.
“It has been very rewarding,” Akers said. “The feedback from our customers and the community has been really positive from the very beginning. I would say it has in some ways surpassed our expectations, and like anything else in life, sometimes maybe it’s not grown as fast as we want.”
“At the end of the day for all of us, enjoying the journey is super important at this point in our careers,” she added. “We have this team of friends who came together, and that’s still a huge part of our story. … We make a quality, we’re solving a problem for customers, and we’re having fun doing it, so it’s a win.”