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Why I designed a Reusable Cracker...

by Bea Thackeray (April 2016)

How I came up with the idea and why...


Where did the idea come from?

It all started back in 2005. I had became a full-time partner in our independent Graphic Design business. We liked to give our clients Christmas gifts and one year we choose handmade paper crackers. This was an obvious choice, as at the time I was designing and importing Fair Trade products from Nepal. These early designs were similar in shape to standard disposable crackers.

My first cracker mock-ups made using handmade paper.

The handmade paper gave them a luxurious feel, and I felt it was a bit of a shame to tear them and throw them away. In fact, here was the rub... The paper was so strong, it wouldn't tear!

So, the challenge was to make a cracker that would come apart without tearing. With a flash of inspiration I made a mock-up where one part fitted into another. 'Very clever', I thought, but soon found that I wasn't alone. There were handmade products on the market at the time that worked in a similar way. I started researching what other ideas people had come up with when I learnt about Mr Samuel Richard Fitch. He had applied for a Patent for a two part cracker and what will probably surprise you, as it did me, was the date of the application - 5th October 1899!

He charmingly described his new invention as 'Bon-bon crackers - Cosaques for containing small articles are in two parts... The cosaque is made to open & shut without breaking the same.' Crackers at the time were referred to as 'Cosaques'. The reason being that when they were pulled the breaking of the snap sounded like a Cossack's whip.


My early cracker designs made using handmade paper.

So I progressed with the idea and my early crackers looked rather like a two part version of a standard cracker. The snap was threaded through the middle and glued in at both ends. 
I decided to shorten the lid part and angle the edge, as this made it easier to put the two parts back together again.

Our clients were delighted. As 'one-use' crackers they worked perfectly well, but I wanted a product that recipients would want to keep. I wasn't satisfied with the result as I knew there must be a way to make the crackers simpler to reuse. It was dissappointing that the ends got easily crushed when pulled and to expect people to stick in a new snap was too much to ask. I needed to find a way that was less fiddly and didn't involve the use of glue.

What happened next...

Why have a box-shaped cracker? There are crackers on the market that are square in section but this is generally a gimick. In the case of my design it was born out of necessity, a classic example of 'Form follows function.' Here's what happened.

After much musing and paper folding, I came up with the idea of how to apply a snap without glue. It's possible to hold the snap in place if it is threaded through slots at each end of the cracker, with both snap ends folded back over and fed through a second set of slots. 

But this would only work if the ends of the cracker were flat. This is where the box shape comes in. The cracker would need to be cuboid in form in order for the ends to collapse. Great! I felt that I was making real progress at last. My new Reusable Gift Box Crackers no longer resembled standard crackers and they could be easily reused. Another unexpected advantage was that they could come flat-packed, ready to be popped into shape and filled.

My first design for the Reusable square-shaped Gift Box Cracker.

In 2012 we were preparing for a family member's 16th Birthday party and I thought it would be a lovely idea to make some crackers to mark the occasion. These cracker boxes were made using a recyclable material called 'Polyart', made from high density polyethylene. It can be printed on just like paper but is waterproof and tear-proof.

The final product and it's benefits.

So this is how the journey began and I've been developing and refining the concept ever since. The Reusable Cracker was launched on the market in mid 2013. My business was then called 'Keep This Design' later to become 'Keep This Cracker'. (Feel free to read my previous blog for more on this.)

Several changes have been made to the initial version, one being the material. The current ranges are made using FSC certified folding box board, which feels more substantial and makes the Gift Box Crackers sturdier.

There are additional eco benefits...

a) Less packaging is used than with standard disposable versions, as our Gift Box Crackers come flat-packed.

b) What I hear again and again from customers is how dissatisfied they are with the gifts that come in standard crackers. We offer ours as 'fill-your-own' so our customers are free to choose their own gifts and personalise them for their family and friends.

c) Once the Gift Box Cracker is reused, it can be easily taken apart and eventually recycled.

d) All products from 'Keep This Cracker' are made in the UK. Component parts and packaging are sourced from UK based manufacturers. For more information please see our 'Eco-story' page.

Current Gift Box Crackers: Wedding Favour Cracker (with chocolate hearts by Choc Affair) and the 'Hellebore' design from the 'Festive' Collection.

Where to from here?

Although Christmas would not be complete without crackers, especially here in the UK, my designs are deliberately generic so they can be used for all occasions, throughout the year.

A new addition to the family are Wedding Favour Crackers, which have proved very popular, as guests can take them away as a memento of the Special Day. These come in a choice of five designs and 20 different ribbon colours. And with a personalised version where the couple can have their names printed, our wedding favour offerings can be truly unique.

Meeting customers at retail and trade events, gives me an opportunity to listen to valuable feedback. I learnt that it would be a good idea to offer our Gift Box Crackers with choices of gifts, so we have added ready-filled options to the Wedding Favour Collection. These gifts are selected for their ethical and eco credentials, and are made in UK by independent producers.

I am currently on the look out for interesting gift ideas to offer with our 'Festive' Collection of larger Gift Box Crackers. So if you have some suggestions please do get in touch, I'd love to hear your wish list.

Post by Bea Thackeray (April 2016) updated (June 2020)

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('Keep This...' is a registered trademark)