At this point, I was sure Keebler’s chokehold on the soda cracker market had less to do with their crackers, more to do with the tin and even more so to do with nostalgia. (Heck, even the Kellogg’s website is hip to what the people really want, touting that the export sodas “come in a tin that’s great for storing snacks, long after [the] crispy crackers are gone.”) But was the tin’s popularity exclusive to Cubans?
I texted my Dominican friend Carolina Reyes to ask if her abuelos or parents use it. Assuming I was reaching, I sent along a photo of the Royal Dansk cookie tin, too. She replied, “Girl, we still use both—at work, we keep our plastic forks in the green one. No clue why; we just always have.” There it was: proof that the roots of Mimi’s cracker tin ran deeper than our kitchen and nationality.
I took to social media for more evidence. One Tweet read, “White women have become the face of reduce/reuse sustainable living, but what about my Puerto Rican family that has stored rice in this Keebler Export Soda cracker tin since before I was born?” Another showed side-by-side images of Rovira and Goya soda cracker tins, begging users to debate which was better. One reply read: “Ninguna de las dos. Las mejores se llaman Keebler Export Sodas.” (Neither of the two. The best ones are called Keebler Export Sodas.) I also found proof of Latinos using the tin as a paint can, flower vase and rice container.
I posted a very scientific survey (aka an Instagram story poll) to see how many of my Latinx friends recognized the tin. I was thrilled to find that people of Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican, Peruvian, Costa Rican, Colombian and Haitian heritage all shared in my nostalgia. “My family is Colombian and that tin was used for sewing supplies,” Miami resident Bruno Solari shared. “These are some of my earliest memories of being at my grandparents’ house. Not sure where the crackers lived, if I’m being honest.”
Sherley Garcia’s family also used the Keebler tins to store sewing supplies: “My family is from DR and has been using these my entire life to store anything from letters to sewing kits to miscellaneous household items. All of my aunts and grandmas have at least one in their home.”
Ada Nunez, whose family also hails from the Dominican Republic, says her mom would use the tins to store leftover snacks. “At any given moment, you could open one up and find anything from leftover airplane peanuts, courtesy of abuela’s frequent trips to the homeland, to 25-cent Doritos, back when Doritos were actually 25 cents.”
As more stories came to light, I couldn’t help but wonder: Why Keebler, specifically? It’s not like there’s a shortage of brands to choose from. Royal Borinquen, Rovira, Sultana and Aviva all make soda crackers that are nearly identical to Keebler’s in terms of ingredients and nutrition facts. (The main differences are size—Keebler’s tin is the largest of the lot—and price, Keebler being the cheapest.) Even Goya, which is arguably the unofficial go-to brand for Latin-Americans, makes soda crackers, also packaged in a cylindrical green tin. But you don’t see anyone tweeting about their can, despite it being just as reusable.
So, what gives? It turned out that I’d have to dig through a 42-year-old lawsuit to uncover the reason behind Keebler’s ubiquitous influence.