Adolphus W. Green, with a history as a Chicago attorney specializing in consolidating businesses to form trusts, joined with two other men to form the National Biscuit Company (later dubbed Nabisco) in 1898. Green took a personal interest in seeing that the original flagship product – the Uneeda Biscuit – was a success.
The Need for Freshness
Until the end of the Nineteenth Century, crackers (or as the English called them, “biscuits”) were produced locally or regionally. General stores of the day sold the crackers from large cracker barrels, which were at risk of moisture, infestation, and general spoilage. “Scraping the bottom of the barrel” takes on new significance considering these facts. The enjoyment for the customer, the lost product, and the short “shelf life” were the result.
It was not so much about changing the cracker itself as improving freshness. Green created the Uneeda Biscuit to be sold in a hygienic moisture-proof package containing relatively smaller amounts than from a cracker barrel. Product could be shipped more easily and to a far greater distance than before without becoming stale.
While Nabisco went on to market such successful products as Oreo Cookies, Saltine crackers, and Ritz Crackers to name only a few, back in the early 20th Century, Uneeda Biscuits were selling millions of packages per month nationwide. The many millions of annual profits generated by Uneeda Biscuits helped make possible the development of these and many other products.
Passage into Legend
Indeed, Uneeda Biscuits are an example of one of those old-time brands that have become the subject of folklore. In the 1950s production of “The Music Man” by Meredith Willson, the traveling salesmen on a 1912 train pulling into Iowa do a patter number called “Rock Island”. It bemoans the changing times where the cracker barrel has flown out the window and changed “…to an airtight sanitary package”.
Over the years, Uneeda Biscuits and its Nabisco parent were merged or taken over many times. As of 2022, Nabisco was owned by Chicago-based Mondelez International. Although you’d be hard pressed to see the Uneeda Biscuit brand on store shelves past the mid Twentieth Century, the name wasn’t fully discontinued until 2009.
- Year Started: 1898
- Year Ended: 2009
- Origin Of Name: Uneeda Biscuit probably from “You need a biscuit.”
- Location Sales: North America
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: N/A
- Owner While In Use: National Biscuit Company (Nabisco)
- Owner Successor: Several
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Cheez-It crackers by Kellogg’s
- Naics Code: 311821
- Location Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois USA