Cracker Jack

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Cracker Jack had passed the 100-year mark but seemed unlikely to be around for its bicentennial when Chris Neugent stepped in and reconnected the brand with kids.

Revitalized marketing reminded a new generation about the box of candy-coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize.

Since Frito-Lay's acquisition of the brand from Borden Foods in November 1997, when annual sales were estimated around $20 million, the snack specialist has more than doubled those sales and is posting double-digit increases each year, says Mr. Neugent, VP-marketing for wholesome snacks for Frito-Lay.

"We made the popcorn bigger and fluffier with more peanuts and bigger prizes, and we put it in bags, as well as boxes, which is a huge advantage for the brand because that is the preferred snacking vehicle," he says.

For Mr. Neugent, 39, who was a Frito-Lay marketing director at the time of the acquisition, two key events signaled the brand's turnaround. First came the successful test of Cracker Jack bags. In addition, there was a positive consumer response to the Super Bowl ad that aired in January 1999. "From that point on, we were selling everything we could make until we could add more capacity," he says.

Promotional programs share a connection with baseball and fun for kids, featuring baseball star Mark McGwire, Rawlings Sporting Goods Co. trading cards and F.A.O. Schwarz. Now in the works are new programs linking Cracker Jack with Pokemon and Scooby Doo characters.

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