Tom Smith’s crackers are a pop of
tradition for any holiday celebration
By Alison Thompson
NOSTALGIC AND FUN filled, the Christmas
cracker has been bursting with festive cheer for
It’s been more than 150 years since London confectioner Tom Smith invented the Christmas
cracker, almost by accident, when he had a spark of
inspiration upon hearing the crackle of a log burning on the fire. It was 1847, and Smith, an innovative
businessman, was pondering ways to increase the
popularity of his “bon bons,” novelty sweets made of
a sugared almond and a love motto, wrapped in a
twist of tissue paper.
To imitate the crackle, he devised a small chemical explosion that was set off by friction when the
wrapper was broken, and his perfected product
became the famous “snap” that is still used in crackers today.
Over the years, Smith refined
the cracker; small surprise gifts
replaced the original sweets, and his
company went from strength to
strength. It was a true family business, and was taken forward by his
three sons, who followed trends and
traveled the world in search of new
gift ideas to keep Tom Smith crackers in demand.
From the 1950s onward, mergers caused the company to change
and grow, but Tom Smith continued
as a premier name among crackers.
In 2005, the brand became part of
International Greetings PLC, a world leader in
crackers, gift wrap and greetings accessories.
International Greetings’ founder, Anders
Hedlund, believes that his company is the perfect
home for the Tom Smith brand. “The Hedlund fam-
ily has more than 120 years’ experience of producing
greetings products,” he tells The Connection, “and we
are delighted to be continuing the proud tradition of
Tom Smith crackers.”
The much-loved tradition has been spreading
around the globe, and International Greetings now
produces more than 80 million crackers a year.
Although most of them are destined for the
Christmas market, they are gaining popularity dur-
ing other holidays too. “We now produce crackers
for different worldwide celebrations, including
Thanksgiving, Easter and New Year,” notes Hedlund.
Surprisingly, tradition still plays an important
role in their manufacture, because the process has
remained relatively unchanged over the years, says
export sales director Jonathan Davies. “They’re still
assembled largely by hand, in much the same way as
they were a century ago, although modern printing
methods mean that the finished quality is now far
superior to the early crackers,” he explains.
With their famous snap, surprise gifts, hats and
silly jokes, family fun is the name of the game, but
there is a proper cracker etiquette, should party
hosts wish to honor tradition. “The customary way
for crackers to be pulled is in a circle,” explains
choose the content of the royal crackers herself, but
it is, of course, a closely guarded secret.”
Cracker content is central to product develop-
ment for all the ranges, and the company draws on
design expertise and ideas from around the world to
decide what will go into their crackers each year,
with careful consideration given to fashions and
trends. The Tom Smith crackers available at Costco
are custom-made exclusively for Costco members,
and this year they come in four designs with packs
filled with a wide variety of distinctive surprise gifts.
For a snappy Christmas, they’re just the thing.C
Founder and deputy
chairman: Anders Hedlund
Employees: More than
Penalta Industrial Estate
Mid Glam, Wales
United Kingdom CF82 7SS
Products at Costco:
Tom Smith’s crackers (Item
# 560560) and Kirkland
Signature™ gift wrap (
various item numbers).
Comment about Costco:
“We work very closely
with Costco and produce a
bespoke range of crackers
for Costco members each
year, with unique content.
We add value to the Costco
range because it is one of
our premium products.”
IMAGES COURTESY OF INTERNATIONAL GREETINGS
NOVEMBER 2010 ;e Costco Connection 41
Alison Thompson is a UK-based freelance writer
and photographer who loves all things festive.