As promised, Cheez-Its continues to ‘defy our Cheezpectations’—a little too much

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By Vivi Smilgius, Editor-in-Chief

From the second they started, it became clear that no aspect of this year’s Academy Awards would be relaxing. Those who sought respite in the commercial breaks, however, did not find it. One particularly alarming commercial introduced a variation of Cheez-It: Cheez-Its Puff’d. This “fresh” take on the classic snack is yet another attempt by Kellogg to fix a well-working machine. 

So, how many types of Cheez-Its are there, really? The answer remains unclear. Food and Wine says 16, Thrilllist says 21, Snack History says 40, and Taquitos lists a whopping 52—including Cheez-It-flavored products.

The official Cheez-It site lists six variations on the original Cheez-It Baked Snack Crackers: Cheez-It Grooves and Cheez-It Duoz—spelled with Zs for a reason only God knows— as well as Cheez-Its Snap’d and Puff’d, and of course Cheez-It Snack Mix and Cheez-it Snack Packs. This compilation of research makes it clear that Cheez-Its have myriad defining factors, including flavor, shape, and physical appearance. But life wasn’t always this complicated.

The extreme commodification of Cheez-Its is another unfortunate—albeit, comparatively benign—consequence of late-stage capitalism. It’s the same reason why streaming platforms are springing up like “Old Town Road” remixes.

Introduced in 1921 and marketed as a “baked rarebit”—a snack-sized version of the British cheese-and-bread dish—Cheez-Its took the world by storm in subsequent decades. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Cheez-Its started in the same Ohio factory as Hard Bread, the wartime food often soaked in water before eating. And, like Hard Bread, Cheez-Its’ long shelf-life contributed to its success.

“It’s a nutritious dish that doesn’t cost a lot of money,” said Brady Kress, president and CEO of Dayton’s Carillon Historical Park, in an interview with Smithsonian Magazine. “When it’s baked down into a Cheez-It, it becomes a tasty treat. And just like hardtack, if you store it correctly, it will stay for a very long time.”

Since their pre-Great-Depression-era conception, Cheez-Its have joined America’s salty snack hall of fame among the likes of Tostitos and Ritz. What started as a wartime necessity has evolved into a 52-product, billion-dollar product. 

But if Cheez-Its skyrocketed to success almost immediately after its conception, what is the need for such high numbers of spin-offs and evolution? The classic, one-inch square clearly does the trick—there can’t possibly be a need for dozens of derivatives.

Like most movies, Cheez-Its’ original is better than any of its sequels. While Kellog’s extra toasted spinoff—a genius play undoubtedly made by someone who burnt a batch and created a solution upon threat from corporate overlords—satisfies one’s cheesy craving, it is, along with the rest of Cheez-Its’ kin, completely unnecessary.