The pretzel has popularized in Germany in the 12th century and made its way to America with emigration. The German emigrants largely settled in Pennsylvania, giving birth to an industry that is still thriving today. Americans consume $500M of pretzels each year, with Pennsylvania being the source of 80% of these goodies. Pennsylvanians are also credited with consuming 12 times more pretzels than others in the U.S. If I’m interpreting this right – we make and consume all of the pretzels in the U.S.
There are dozens on pretzel factories in southeastern Pennsylvania, including all of the brands we know and love. However, the best tasting hard pretzel is the Unique Pretzel Split. Unique Pretzels is based in Reading and the result of 16 generations of evolution - originating in the late 1800′s, later forming into the Unique Pretzel company in 1921, and finally being a product that can be found on the shelves of Pennsylvania retailers.
I’m going to say this again because it is unequivocally true – Unique Pretzels are the best hard pretzels in the country, which puts them high in the running for best worldwide. You won’t truly understand that until you purchase a bag. I highly recommend them and recently picked-up 10 cases at the Reading bakery where they are made of them because I couldn’t find them at my local grocer.
Fortunately, they do ship pretzels and they can be found on store shelves in southeastern PA – but, distribution is spotty across New Jersey, New York and the western part of the state. However, you should call to inquire, because there are specialty stores around that do carry the Splits. You’ll want to purchase the “dark splits” – they’re the ones that are simply amazing.
UPDATE: For people that are sensitive to wheat, Unique Pretzels also makes pretzels made from sprouted wheat. Once the wheat grain is sprouted, it becomes a vegetable and is easier to digest.