A cereal box prize
is a promotional toy or small item that is offered as an incentive to buy a particular breakfast cereal
The process may work in two ways. Often, if a prize is wanted by the consumer, they will usually need to collect a specified number of UPC
proof-of-purchase labels found on the box. The consumer then mails the labels in, often with a personal check
to defray the cost of shipping. The prize then comes to them through mail in as many as 8 weeks.
However, obtaining the prize is often as simple as opening the box and reaching in for it. In reality, the prize would be in a different container than the cereal, but it is referenced in TV and comics that they "ate the prize" or found it in their bowl.
History and prizes
The cereal box prize is a concept almost as old as cereal; perhaps older. For example, Cracker Jack
boxes often contained prizes in them, well before the boom of breakfast cereals
. In the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s the prizes were often action figures
, plastic knick-knacks, puzzles
, and Matchbox
-type toy cars.
As technology expanded and became much cheaper in the 1990s and 2000s, more unlikely items such as Compact Disc singles, cassette singles, and computer games became prizes.
Many times, a prize will not be independent of the cereal. The cereal box may have a famous cartoon or superhero character on it, and the prize may be closely related. Also, the prizes are not always independent of each other. Frequently, a toy will be part of a large series of related toys. This further entices the consumer to buy more of the cereal in hopes of collecting all parts of a series.