Saturday, August 30, 2014


Since I began this blog two years ago, the list of 800 or so royal warrant holders has stayed remarkably stable. That’s why I find it jarring when I notice there’s been some movement on the list. The members of the royal family may be traditional to the extreme, but even they are capable of embracing an out with the old/in with the new attitude at times. In 1999 cigarette manufacturer Benson & Hedges quietly lost its warrant because the royal family felt it unseemly to endorse tobacco products. For reasons much less clear, Carr’s—a warrant holder for more than 150 years—just lost its warrant in 2012.

Right away it seems necessary to defend why I’m writing about a company that lost its warrant. If they’re off the list, why bother? To that question I answer: 1.) I’ve also written about a Dog Show, vegetables, and formal warrant holder Hamleys on this site and 2.) I didn’t realize when I bought these crackers that Carr’s had lost its warrant. It strikes me as a waste of money if I don’t come up with something to say about them.

Per the Carr’s website, this brand was founded by Jonathan Carr, who opened a bakery in Carlisle, England in 1831. Just 10 years later, remarkably, Queen Victoria awarded the bakery a royal warrant, which Carr’s held continuously since 2012. Carr’s today makes a whole line of thin little grown-up crackers just begging to be opened at a fancy party. The table water crackers I bought were a little blah without cheese or something fun to pair them with, but the rosemary and poppy & sesame flavors are lovely on their own.

As I navigated around on the Carr’s website I was surprised to find it in disrepair. The “Special Offers” and “Recipes” sections ask visitors to “check back soon,” and the “Where to Buy” section is unviewable because of errors.

But the crackers haven’t changed, right? Why would the royal family suddenly stop eating them? An article that ran in Carlisle's Cumberland News in March 2012 stated the official word from Buckingham Palace is that “changing tastes” in the household dictated this move. But who suddenly stops eating crackers? Did they also stop using toilet paper and drinking milk? Something isn’t adding up here.

My theory was that Carr’s being bought-out by United Biscuits (which owns fellow royal warrant holder brand McVitie’s) could have something to do with this. For other possibilities, let’s turn our attention to the “Have Your Say” section of the Cumberland News. People indeed had a lot to say here, even if 85% was, arguably, not on point:

used to love these in Shetland in the '80's, so I thought I'd treat myself to a bit of nostalgia... what on earth has happened to them? you used to get about a dozen to a box, now they're paper thin and nowhere near as nice. Sorry Carrs, but did you lose the Royal Warrant when you went wafer thin?
Posted by Philip Young on 29 January 2013

My father worked at Carr's of Carlisle after the war,and Carrs water biscuits are top of our table here in NZ, they are the best water crackers on the NZ market, with a glass of wine and NZ cheese the best of British! So sorry to here of the lose please maintain quality
My brother Alan Scott also worked in the printing Dept in the late 50's
Posted by Syd Scott on 6 January 2013

They were probably dropped from Royal patronage because they competed with Charles Duchy biscuits. Fact is, Carrs water biscuits are the best in the world by far, of their type. With any cheese - absolutely delicious.
Posted by Chris W on 6 January 2013

We’ll leave the last word to a Mrs. D Paris, who had these strong feelings about the crackers:

Well, they still have my seal of approval. They are delicious, no other savoury biscuit comes anywhere near. If the Palace no longer buys them, then that says a lot about declining standards in the royal household.
Long may they flourish.
Posted by Mrs D Paris on 19 August 2012

While losing a warrant might temporarily sideline some businesses, Carr’s decided not to take this slight lying down. United Biscuits complied with royal wishes and removed the Queen’s coat of arms from their crackers’ packaging but at the same time opted to replace it with the coat of arms of the city of Carlisle. Per the packaging, United Biscuits went so far as to enter into a trademark licensing agreement with the city of Carlisle in order to use this symbol. To the undistinguished eye (read: mine, when I grabbed a package at the store the other day), the packaging didn’t change much.

I guess I could be annoyed that I was duped into buying the Carr’s, but it honestly didn’t bother me. I wish I could say the same for the fair-skinned, blue-eyed princes who reign over my house. When I offered them Carr’s crackers for snack the other day, their faces instantly lit up. As we gathered at the dining room table and I tugged open the packaging to reveal the pale white crackers, their eyes narrowed:

“I thought you said these were Cars crackers,” Nathan protested.

Cars,” Nicky repeated.

“Where’s Lightning McQueen?”

Maybe it’s true what Buckingham Palace said—changing tastes.

Where to buy: Carr’s crackers are available in most grocery stores. I purchased mine at Treasure Island in Chicago.

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