Cracker Jack's new owner is aiming the caramel-coated popcorn snack further into the mainstream with a snack bar called Cracker Jack Treat, going into test in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
That's also where Frito has been testing two TV spots for the flagship brand, which has been repackaged from its signature box into bags and shelved near Frito-Lay's other snack chips and pretzels.
Although the marketer debuted one of the Cedar Rapids spots nationally on the Super Bowl, the commercial was described by a spokeswoman as a "one shot" for a national run to introduce the large bags. She declined to discuss test-market advertising or the snack bar.
The new ads mark the first from new owner Frito, which bought the Cracker Jack brand from Borden in late 1997. It's also the maiden work for the brand-and client-from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco. Grey Advertising, New York, had the account under Borden.
The spot that aired on the Jan. 31 Super Bowl poked fun at the "big" bags, showing consumers hauling around ridiculously exaggerated-size bags of Cracker Jack. The bag barely fits on a car roof; a child opening it up for the famed prize is rewarded with a Shetland pony.
The other commercial running in Cedar Rapids shows a grandfather telling his grandkids about the Cracker Jack prizes. After he falls asleep, they ransack through flour and other messy foods in the kitchen to find prizes.
The theme: "Cracker Jack. The greatest snack ever made."
Frito is expected to back the snack bar this month with a commercial that shows a hefty-size kid sliding on a mound of mashed potatoes on a cafeteria floor, causing him to land flat on a bag of Cracker Jack. When he rises, the bag has squashed into a Cracker Jack Treat bar.
The entry into snack bars is particularly significant for Frito-Lay, which hasn't plumbed that vibrant segment as yet.
Once populated only with granola and high-energy bars, the market has exploded with tasty if less healthy items that have crossed over from other categories.
Among the newer entries are Kellogg Co.'s Nutri-Grain Twists, Quaker Oats Co.'s Chewy Granola Bars and Cap'n Crunch-branded bar.
Snack bar sales as a result jumped 7.4% for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 27 in supermarkets to $929.1 million, according to Information Resources Inc. Kellogg's Nutri-Grain leads the category with sales of $151.8 million, up 5.8%. The company's Rice Krispies Treats bars, more closely comparable to Cracker Jack Treats, showed sales of $99.4 million during that period, up 1.5%.
Snack bars overall represent a much larger and faster-growing market than Cracker Jack's traditional one, ready-to-eat popcorn/
caramel. IRI puts sales for that category at $244.9 million for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 3 in food, drug and mass merchandisers. Cracker Jack ranked third in that category with sales of $23.7 million, down 20.4%. International Home Foods' Crunch 'n Munch led the category with $40.2 million in sales, down 19.9%.
IHF recently moved the Crunch 'n Munch brand from Y&R Advertising, New York, to