It might be difficult to remember it now, what with all these food-delivery apps and Mountain Dew Black Label, but there was a time when a small paperboard box held the ultimate pleasure. No, not cigarettes: Cracker Jack snack mix, a delicious fusion of caramel popcorn and peanuts that kept dentists in business. The treat has had many imitators, each one more hilariously named than the last—Fiddle Faddle, Poppycock, Crunch ’N’ Munch, and Screaming Yellow Zonkers—but they pale in comparison to the original, which rewarded kids for eating junk food with a prize. It was usually something like a whistle or a ball-in-the-hole game that was quickly lost, though new owners Frito-Lay did celebrate the snack’s 100th anniversary by throwing in a few diamond rings.
But that era is officially over, as Frito-Lay has announced it’s swapping physical prizes like this spy kit for something less tangible, but far more contemporary. The company’s press release on the matter boasts a “new one-of-a-kind mobile experience, leveraging digital technology to bring the iconic Prize Inside to life.” Customers will no longer pull, say, a lead-painted miniature cannon toy out of the box (although those haven’t been in circulation for years). Instead, they’ll be trending on Twitter by opening a flap, then holding their phones over a QR code just like so in order to do things like create a baseball card to “trade with family and friends,” as well as post videos of their “dance moves” on the “simulated JumboTron” that exists in everyone’s hearts and minds, i.e., the Blippar augmented-reality app.
It’s not just the prizes that are getting a makeover—the packaging is also being updated for tech-savvy snackers, who also look forward to feasting on terrible virtual fudge. “We are a brand that authentically reminds people of simpler times, childhood memories and family experiences,” the company says. Now, the prizes had decreased in quality over the years (temporary tattoos, meh), but it was still a nice chaser for the old sugar high. Frito-Lay would probably be better off just nixing the idea entirely, instead of creating a dubious online “experience.” That, or it should at least consider hiring Tom Haverford to adapt Cracker Jack prizes for the new millennium.