“Prize” Images: PepsiCo Frito-Lay

When you place your ballpark side order of peanuts and Cracker Jack this summer, be prepared for a shock. Instead of a box, your Cracker Jack will be delivered in a slimy plastic bag. And instead of a prize, you get a QR code.

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The box-free packaging, new logo, and “prize” are part of an overhaul of the brand by to provide “baseball-inspired mobile digital experiences directly from the sticker inside,” according to PepsiCo Frito-Lay. So rather than experience the instant gratification of winning a prize, kids can borrow their parents’ phone, download a special app, then scan the code inside and play a baseball-themed game. Or—who am I kidding, they probably have their own phone because aren’t they requiring all children have phones by age four now?

“Prize”

Truth be told, the prizes inside Cracker Jacks haven’t been that cool for some time. There used to be decoder rings and toy figurines. In the most recent “box” of Cracker Jack that I ate, I got a temporary tattoo. But they were prizes! They were real. They did not require a smartphone to appreciate them.

A world with prize-less Cracker Jack is not a world I want to live in, but I think I’m more upset about the loss of the box. The Uncanny Valley-ization of Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo in the logo is awful enough, but taking the box away is an affront to baseball fans everywhere. The distinctive “waxed” cardboard package was invented in 1899 and has stuck around with only a few modifications all this time. And that’s because it’s perfect. The boxes fit perfectly in a cupholder, but could also be easily closed and stashed to save the last of your Jack for the ride home. AND, the box, half filled with Jack, also easily doubled as a noisemaker during the game.

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I’m sure all “prizes” will be delivered by app soon so this is just the next logical step toward that future. But to replace 117 years of packaging genius with a boring striped pillow? It’s an affront to American innovation.