Vintage Ads: Putting on the Ritz

Introduced as an affordable snack during the Great Depression, Ritz quickly became a sensation.

Vintage ad for Ritz crackers

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By 1934, many families had been forced by the Depression to reduce spending on treats and occasional indulgences. It was the perfect time for Nabisco to introduce the affordable, buttery cracker with a name associated with luxury.

It came from César Ritz, who’d opened glamorous hotels that bore his name around the world. Ritz’s hotels earned such renown as symbols of opulence that ritz became a slang term for something extravagant. Research had shown that up to 90 percent of snack food purchases were made by women, and the men in charge of marketing jumped to the conclusion that female shoppers would be influenced by snob appeal. Hence the name Ritz, which promised a “bite of the good life.”

As a bonus, Ritz crackers boasted a richer taste than most competitors and went for only 19 cents a box. By 1935, a whopping five billion of the crackers had been sold, which worked out to 40 crackers for every man, woman, and child in America. Within three years of its launch, Ritz was the best-selling cracker in the world.

Vintage ad for Ritz crackers
This Ritz advertisement appeared in the October 25, 1947 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. (Click to Enlarge)

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