As a parent, it’s easy to roll your eyes when your kids want a cereal that tastes like cardboard and is 99.9% sugar all because it comes with ‘a prize’.
While that might seem like a stupid thing to want to buy cereal for – who buys cheap meat because it comes with a fork, for example? – kids aren’t exactly logical. They see the awesome toy instead of the food, and just want to have that.
It’s part of life, and it’s one of the many reasons why many kids want to buy a specific brand of cereal. However, what made this a thing? Why did we get to a point where punting boxes of cereal came with a gift inside? You might be shocked to find out it has NOTHING to do with the food itself!
Why are cereal boxes always the home of a toy?
There are some odd reasons for this, but the most common reason is that they were made famous by Kellogg’s. As one of the big names of the cereal industry, they often set trends and rule the roost.
Thanks to Kellogg’s, other firms started to pick up the idea in the 1960s. General Mills was one of the biggest ones to go for it, buying up all manner of major non-food brands to try and build a toy program.
They bought up companies like Parker Brothers – who made Monopoly – and also other companies such as Play-Doh and Rainbow Crafts. They started to make awesome little ‘surprises’ to capture kids with, giving them the chance to get everything from easy-bake ovens to various toys and balls to play within their cereal packaging.
Instead of using the toys to promote the food, it was the other way about. Get the kids to try the cereal, all the while getting them addicted to playing around with a new brand of toys. Now, kids wanted to get cereal brands based on the toys they got, not the actual quality of the food.
As you might imagine, though, this did not last forever. Nowadays, most cereal toys are linked to something big and popular. From Star Wars to Marvel Comics, the aim is to always get something big in the media.
It’s the same as when you go to fast food chains and get all manner of sponsored toys and products: it’s a major tie in to help make more money and cash in on a major feel-good moment in the advertising industry.
If something big and popular comes along, expect to find it in your cereals, in your fast food, and in just about every promo advert that you come across. From lightsabre-shaped spoons to Spider-man shaped cereals, toys, promotions, and tie-ins became a major part of the cereal industry long, long ago.