The more you eat, the more you want.
When I set about researching this node as a European I had no idea how popular and deeply
rooted within the American culture these snacks are. I’ve only ever seen them in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, when Paul wins the ring he later gives to Holly. So here follows the results of my little trip into the American food industry.
The story goes that in the early 1890’s in a Chicago still recovering from the Great Fire, a young German immigrant who went by the name of Frederick William Rueckheim, in an attempt to maintain himself took to selling popcorn in a portable stand throughout the streets of the city.
As a relatively new concept, competition for the popcorn stand business was fierce and Frederick’s mind turned to novelty products that would give him the edge over his
After various attempts he finally settled on a combination of caramel and peanuts.
Success was unprecedented and less than a year later Frederick and his brother Louis debuted them at Chicago’s first world fair, The World Colombian Exposition, with their hastily put together company, F.W. Rueckheim and Brother.
After a high level of success the brothers continue modifying and changing the recipe in an attempt to stop the popcorn sticking together and a hopefully turning a corner street treat into a marketable snack. This took them three years and in 1896 had perfected their creation with the aid of a secret formula that is still in use.
During this period Louis, the businessman of the two, was busy promoting their treat and one day he offered a taste to a potential salesman, who is said to have exclaimed, "That’s a Cracker Jack" in amazement. That was the cue for Louis to rush to trademark the name and so Cracker Jack® was born.
With the improved and named product the brothers now had a firm chance to market their product and soon had managed to introduced it to one of the biggest snack markets of the country: ball parks.
As an exclusive product it soon was all the rage with aficionados of baseball all over the nation.
In 1908 two men, who strangely had never been to a game, wrote "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" a baseball anthem that immortalised Cracker Jack® in the third line of the chorus; "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack". To date over a hundred versions of the song have been recorded.
1912. The year that one of the most distinguishing features of Cracker Jack was introduced; the prize. At this point only small toys where included with the popcorn.
In 1918 the first advertising was put in place by the inclusion of the popular face of a young sailor boy and his dog holding armfuls of Cracker Jack. Sailor JackTM, modelled on Frederick’s grandson, and Bingo™ were soon the new face of America's leading snack. The empire was born.
In 1944 Cracker Jack advertises on the radio for the first time, sponsoring "News of the Week," broadcast weekly to 17 stations for one year.
By the mid fifties Cracker Jack was an institution in its own right competing with Hershey for the control of the taste buds of middle America. Cracker Jack took it one step further by stepping on the bandwagon of new technology: television. In 1955 the first televised advert for Cracker Jack appeared on CBS-Tv’s On Your Account a program broadcast to over 130 stations nation-wide.
In 1964 Cracker Jack Co. becomes the Cracker Jack division of Borden Inc. an Ohio based company.
The family based business is in the family no longer. True to the principles that had made the popcorn such a success Borden Inc. continue to market the product as it is and this transition is barely noticed by the general public.
But the method of batch coating the popcorn in massive tubs was outdated and new more efficient ways of producing Cracker Jack beckoned to Borden. Investing a vast amount of money in 1975 Borden begins to make Cracker Jack with high speed, automated and continuous cooking machinery.
A new addition to family, butter toffee flavour Cracker Jack, is introduced in but does not prove as popular as its predecessor.
1993 is the 100th anniversary for the popcorn snack and to commemorate this achievement a special prize promotion is launched. Such gifts as a set of 1915 miniature baseball cards and toys from yonder year are included in an attempt to emulate the best prizes that had been included with Cracker Jack over the last hundred years.
1995 brings the healthy fat free version of Cracker Jacks to the shelves in keeping with the health craze that engulfs Western civilisation. Meanwhile negotiations are under way with the giant Frito-Lay to purchase Cracker Jack and by 1997 the deal goes through and Cracker Jack joins the likes of Doritos and Cheetos.
1999 brought a few additions to the advertising side of things. On January 31st 1999 the first Cracker Jack advertisement for fifteen years is aired during the pro-football game. Months later crackerjack.com launches. November of the same year saw Butter Toffee Clusters hit the shelves and see out the last quarter with aplomb.
The new millennium brought consumers Toffee Peanuts under the slogan "Now you can enjoy nothing but Nuts!".
I have been unable to procure a list of the ingredients as stated on the packaging. I have done extensive searches to no avail and since this a US product only I have no way of actually seeing a wrapper. All advice and help is of course welcome.
Original Fat Free Fat Free
with Peanuts Caramel Butter Toffee
Serving (cup) 1/2 3/4 3/4
Total 120 110 110
From Fat 15 0 0
Total 2 0 0
Saturated 0 0 0
Cholesterol 0 0 0
Sodium 70 70 85
Total 23 26 26
Fibre 1 1 1
Sugar 15 17 17
Protein 2 <1 1
Cracker Jack Song
Taken from the original radio advertisement of 1944 the song was broadcast for over a year throughout the United States.
And it goes….
What do you want
When you gotta eat somethin'
And it's gotta be sweet
And it's gotta be a lot
And you gotta have it now?
What do you want?
What do you get
When you open the top
And look inside
And smack your lips
And turn it over
And spill it out?
What do you get?
Candy-coated popcorn, peanuts, and a prize...
That's what you get in Cracker Jack!