2016 marked a major change in Cracker Jack history. After over a century of including a "Surprise Inside" boxes of Cracker Jack, parent company Frito-Lay announced the end of the Cracker Jack prize that we once knew and loved. For years, the death-knell tolled, but in the spring of 2016 it was finally over, finito, going-going-gone. No more Cracker Jack prize.
In an April 28, 2016 press release, Frito-Lay announced that in place of an actual prize, Cracker Jack packages now include a sticker with a QR code that could be scanned to access "baseball-inspired mobile digital experiences" to "show off your dance moves on a simulated baseball field jumbo screen on your phone, control the outcome of the legendary Dot Race or make yourself a baseball star in baseball cards and autographed photos that can be traded." To access it, a Blippar app would need to be downloaded and installed on your phone.
“The Cracker Jack Prize Inside has been as much a part of the nostalgia and love for the brand as the unforgettable combination of caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts,” said Haston Lewis, senior director of marketing, Frito-Lay. “The new Prize Inside allows families to enjoy their favorite baseball moments through a new one-of-a-kind mobile experience, leveraging digital technology to bring the iconic Prize Inside to life.”
Since the turn of the new millennium, Cracker Jack prize quality has gradually diminished until prizes were just small tokens made of paper--mostly games or puzzles, stickers, or flimsy sports-related cards. In 2013, Frito-Lay even introduced a baseball app that could be redeemed through Google Play using a code that was printed on the back of the paper-based Cracker Jack prize. Granted the paper prizes were considered "crappy" or "very crappy" but it was a physical prize and, being tangible, could be collected and sold on eBay one day. Now the Cracker Jack prize is gone, replaced by a digital code promising a potential "one-of-a-kind mobile experience."
Along with this change, Frito-Lay "restyled" the Cracker Jack packaging to modernize its look and feel. Sailor Jack and Bingo were not replaced, but appear more youthful in Frito-Lay's obvious attempt to appeal to newer generations.
“We are a brand that authentically reminds people of simpler times, childhood memories and family experiences,” said Lewis. “With this redesign and new mobile game experience, the Cracker Jack brand embraces a modernized, young-at-heart attitude while keeping that treasured feeling of childhood wistfulness.”
In response to Frito-Lay's changes, Cracker Jack fans took to Facebook and started an unsuccesful petition to "put back the prize," but what was done would not be undone. For over a century, Cracker Jack was both snack and "surprise." For many of those years, the "surprise" was a major reason to buy the snack. Those nostalgic for the good old days of Cracker Jack may be forgetting how far back those "good" days extend. The decline of the Cracker Jack prize has been almost four decades in the making and in 2016, it came to its natural end.
We commend Frito-Lay for trying to introduce technology to save a once fledging product. Due to saturation of options in the snack food market and basic finances, the demise of the Cracker Jack prize is simply a "sign of the times." At the price of a snack, there could no longer be a "surprise."
Long live Cracker Jack.
- Facebook: Cracker Jack
- Blippar: Cracker Jack Brings The Ball Game to You!
- Google Play: Cracker Jack App II