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New owners promise Cracker Jack ads

(ran TP HT CI editions)

Cracker Jack, that staple of candy counters and ballparks nationwide for more than 104 years, is about to be reinvigorated, the brand's new owners say.

Not with new ingredients, but with more advertising.

Those boxes filled with caramelized popcorn first went on sale in 1893 and gained immortality of a sort in 1908 with the song, Take Me Out to the Ball Game.

But Cracker Jack really hit the big time in 1912 when manufacturer F.W. Rueckheim started putting in plastic toys to fulfill the promise of a "prize in every box." Sailor Jack and his dog, Bingo, first appeared on the boxes following World War I.

Frito-Lay Co. just bought the brand from Borden Foods, manufacturers of the popular candy since 1963, when it was purchased from the Rueckheim family.

Steve Reinemund, Frito-Lay CEO, says Cracker Jack "is an American icon with universal appeal and tremendous brand equity." New advertising campaigns will ensure the popular brand keeps its place in the candy pantheon, he says.

The lyric "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack" guaranteed national promotion when first sung nearly 100 years ago and the red, white and blue striped boxes have carried more than 17-billion toys as that extra surprise for munchers of the peanut-and-caramelized-popcorn mix.

Butter Toffee Cracker Jack was introduced earlier in this decade, followed by Cracker Jack Fat-Free in 1995. Nearly 10 tons of popcorn are popped and 3,000 pounds of molasses are poured daily to meet national demand.