Say it ain’t so! Cracker Jack eliminates toy prizes

Is nothing sacred? Cracker Jack–the sweet-salty snack we boomers grew up on–is replacing the iconic surprise toy inside each box with stickers bearing digital codes for “baseball-inspired mobile experiences” (marketing-speak for online games).


I understand companies must evolve to keep up with changing customer needs and wants, but to this baby boomer, this move by Cracker Jack (which is owned by the Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo) smacks of sacrilege. Granted, I haven’t eaten the caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts mix in years (too much sugar and I don’t want to risk losing a filling), but come on—no more little trinkets inside the Cracker Jack box?

Who among us doesn’t remember the childhood thrill of anticipation (What’ll my prize be this time?), and comparing your booty (back when that word didn’t mean your backside) with that of your friends?

There’s even a Cracker Jack Collectors Association, and the nostalgic little toys and trinkets are sold and traded on eBay. Their discontinuance likely will drive up prices, a boon for collectors. But for many of us boomers, it feels like the end of an era—right up there with discovering there’s no Santa Claus or Easter bunny, for cripes’ sake.

This revoltin’ development got me to thinking, however, how savvy corporate marketers could capitalize on the void left by Cracker Jack’s defection to digital. Specifically, they could offer us an entirely new set of more age-appropriate prizes with the food and snacks we consume. For example:

  • A packet of salt substitute in every bag of potato chips to remind us to limit our salt consumption
  • A multivitamin with every fast-food meal to offset the lack of nutritional value in what we’re eating
  • A purse-size magnifying mirror in every box of chocolates so we can detect rogue facial hairs wherever we are
  • A magic decoder ring with every six-pack of beer to help men understand what the women in their lives are saying
  • A stick-on tracking device in every package of ginkgo biloba to affix to our glasses or keys so we can figure out where we set them down
  • A pack of fiber pills with every low-fiber snack food to make up for the lack of roughage
  • An eye mask with every package of coffee, to help us sleep if we have too much caffeine late in the day
  • A pen with invisible ink with every bottle of wine (or other adult beverage) in case we sign something we shouldn’t while under the influence
  • A dental floss pick with every bag of popcorn, for getting the hulls out of our teeth
  • A packet of antacid pills with any spicy food, to counteract its impact on our acid reflux
  • An activity tracker with every package of cookies that tells us how many steps we must take to work off the calories in each cookie we eat
  • A stress-relieving squeeze ball with every carton of ice cream, so we can squeeze the ball instead of gorging on the ice cream when we’re upset
  • A small fan with any food that may trigger hot flashes in menopausal women
  • A magnifying glass with any junk food, for reading the list of ingredients (and perhaps helping us resist eating it)
  • A packet of digestive enzymes with foods that trigger flatulence and bloating
  • A set of marbles with every meal on the go, for those times when we’re so frantically busy we wonder if we’re losing ours
  • A powerful gadget with every cake or pie that causes the calories to leak out when you cut into it
  • A little notebook and pen with every package of herbal tea, for when we take the time to sit and contemplate—and need to write things down
  • A bathroom locator device with every bottle of water (for obvious reasons)
  • For those who haven’t dated in a while, a magic bullshit detector with every first-date meal so we can tell if the person sitting across from us is full of it
  • A piece of chocolate with every bunch of kale, just to balance things out

Yes, life has changed as we boomers have gotten older. The demise of Cracker Jack prizes as we knew them is just one small measure of how our world is different today. But the fact that we’re still in it remains something to be grateful for, right? And it inspires this haiku:

It’s nice to stroll down
memory lane; the return
trip is bittersweet.

What do you think? How does Cracker Jack’s decision to forego its traditional prizes make you feel? Got some ideas for prizes we should get with snack foods at our age? Please share!


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10 thoughts on “Say it ain’t so! Cracker Jack eliminates toy prizes”

  1. I don’t ever remember chipping a tooth on Cracker Jacks, but my teeth were so bad, anyway, that it’s impossible to remember everything about them.

    If it weren’t for those little Cracker Jack prizes, my toy collection would have been lacking indeed.

    I think the Poland Spring people should include a discreetly packaged Depends pad with every one-liter bottle of water, for obvious reasons.

  2. What a great cross-promotional idea, Molly (the air freshener with beans)–I’m surprised some enterprising manufacturer of either product hasn’t thought of this before! And I agree about the Cracker Jacks–the world as we know it just won’t be the same (broken teeth and all).

    1. Their parent company (Frito Lay/PepsiCo)) certainly has enough other food products that would lend themselves to “prizes.” And gawd knows we’ve earned them at this age, right? Thanks for the vote of confidence, Donna!

  3. I love the idea of chocolate with kale, Roxanne, as well as all your other ideas. Since I love beans, I think an air freshener with every bag of beans would be practical. As for cracker jacks, I am devastated! That was a highlight of eating cracker jacks, along with the inevitable trip to the dentist to repair a broken tooth after chomping on an unpopped kernel, aka as an ‘old maid.’ Hmmmm….where did that little phrase come from? Perhaps food for another blog.

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