RENO, Nev. (KOLO) -- A newly-constructed kitchen in the Biggest Little City is on track to bake 2.5 billion crackers a year. They are enjoyed by snack lovers in all 50 U.S. states, as well as Canada and Australia.
Mary Waldner is the founder of "Mary's Gone Crackers"
It all started in the Bay Area with Mary Waldner in 1994 when she was diagnosed with celiac disease, an inflammatory response when ingesting gluten. She reclaimed her life with the creation of gluten-free organic crackers.
She would make them at home and eat them in restaurants instead of bread to help her feel like she was not missing out, but her friends started eating her crackers instead of the bread because they said they were so good. The crackers were a hit.
This positive feedback prompted Mary to launch her own cracker business in 2004.
It's called Mary's Gone Crackers because her friends said she was crazy to walk away from her career as a psychotherapist. Now, nearly 15 years later, it has grown into a 425,000-square-foot bakery at 9480 North Virginia Street in Reno. The giant bakery sits on the opposite side of U.S. 395 from Walmart in Stead.
Each cracker takes an 850-foot trip before it's boxed and shipped for your enjoyment at home. This journey starts on the south side of the bakery, where grains including rice, flax seed, quinoa, and sesame seeds are stored. The grains are poured into one of four sifting systems.
"We sift out foreign material with vibrators. The end product is taken out and put in the red basket," said Maintenance Manager Scott Thompson.
The next step is for the grains to pass through a machine called the cyclone. "The dust gets swept out of the top of the pipeline. The product drops down into the hopper," Thompson said.
The grain passes through a series of pipes until it's dropped into a big metal container, where the dough is made. Thompson says, "We have a chopper unit on the bottom, which is basically like a garbage disposal chopper blade, and that's designed to crack the rice just a little bit to help with the cooking process. Once we get the dough to the right moisture content, then that's when we know we're ready to deposit."
The dough is flattened and rounded into perfect rows before starting their journey on a stainless steel moving band designed to pass through a 420-foot oven. It's the longest of its kind in the world used to make gluten-free products.
Thompson opened one of several doors allowing us to peer inside to the crackers as they passed through the oven. He said pointing to them, "The moisture is pulled out."
The oven has ten zones. Each section blasts a different temperature ranging from 300 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Each oven also controls the moisture content and airflow, essentially working like a convection oven, to give each cracker a toasted flavor and crunch.
This process continues 24 hours a day seven days a week, except for ten days a year when the bakery shuts down in honor of various holidays.
The crackers slide down onto two conveyor belts before they're weighed and packed in boxes for shipment around the world for hungry customers to enjoy.
You can buy Mary's Gone Crackers in four flavors: Original, Herb, Black Pepper, and Jalapeno.
Chefs are constantly thinking of new flavors for you to try in an on-site kitchen. In January 2018, six new flavors will be ready for you to buy: Super Seed Chili Lime, Lemon Dill, Rosemary, Real Thin Crackers, and Cayenne Pepper.
You can buy these products at Costco, Whole Foods, Sprouts, Safeway, Smiths, Raley's, Kroger, and Great Basin Food Co-op.