A scant two days after publishing a post about the “Jacked” naming trend I learned about yet another jacked-up brand name.
Cracker Jack’D image from Gawker.
I’m a little late to this party: the Cracker Jack’D brand extension was announced last November by parent company Frito-Lay and started appearing in stores in December. The jacked ingredient in Cracker Jack’D is caffeine: the equivalent of a cup of coffee in every two-ounce bag, according to The Impulsive Buy. The company says Cracker Jack’D is intended only for adult consumers, and of course that stern warning will be 100 percent effective.
Also jacked up: the calorie count. Each wee bag contains about 450 calories (and 680 milligrams of sodium, if you’re counting). Original Cracker Jack has 120 calories per four-ounce “serving” and 70 mg of sodium.
(Right about now might be a good time for you to take a break and read “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food,” the compelling cover story of the February 24 New York Times Magazine. It’s a long excerpt from Michael Moss’s new book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, and it contains revelations like this one: a serving of Yoplait brand yogurt contains twice as much sugar as a serving of marshmallow-centric Lucky Charms breakfast cereal.)
I can’t explain the apostrophe or the capitalized D in the Cracker Jack’D name. They may be there to preserve the integrity (so to speak) of the original Cracker Jack name, to look old-timey and folksy (like Amaz’n Asian Chik’n and Chop’t), or because some designer thought they looked cool. Less cool is the official spelling: Cracker Jack®’D.
Cracker Jack is one of the oldest surviving food brands in America; Andrew F. Smith, author of The Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food, calls it “America’s first junk food.” A version of the caramel-corn-and-peanut mix was introduced at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, and the first batch of branded Cracker Jack was produced in 1896. According to company lore, an enthusiastic sampler gave the brand its name when he exclaimed, “That’s crackerjack!” The “prize in every box” was introduced in 1912; the brand mascots, Sailor Joe and his dog Bingo, first appeared in 1918.
The Cracker Jack company was family owned until 1964, when it was sold to Borden. Borden sold the brand to Frito-Lay in 1997.
There are no prizes inside packages of Cracker Jack’D (get over it; you’re a grownup!). Flavors include Cocoa Java, Vanilla Mocha, Salted Caramel, Cheddar BBQ, and the suspiciously kid-friendly-sounding PB and Chocolate.