I was walking through the breakfast cereal aisle of my local supermarket the other night when I noticed something that surprised me. It seems the practice of putting little toys and freebie gifts in packets of breakfast cereals is all but dying out, as I didn’t notice a single prize to be had from any of the boxes on the shop shelves.
I remember as a child that I had a favourite breakfast cereal (Coco Pops as it happens, and I have to admit I’m still partial to the old bowl of them today) but as an easily bought child consumer I could be made to defect to another cereal if it contained a more interesting toy or free gift.
The kinds of toys you could get varied from the really rubbish to the surprisingly good. At the rubbish end of the scale it might be a little plastic frisbee thing which could be flicked around the room using another piece of plastic, or a Yo-Yo which had a string that was too short, or was made out too lightweight a plastic (or both).
Conversely some of the better toys were actually quite good. I remember getting some magic tricks in a box of Weetos (I think that was in Weetos, which were my second favourite cereal) and I think Frosties had an exclusive range of glow in the dark Monster in my Pockets.
Shreddies had Shrinkie Dinkies several times, and indeed seem to be one of the only cereals carrying on this tradition today, as I have seen them giving childrens books away recently, and Weetabix gave away badges featuring The Weetabix Gang.
Older kids were also targetted by the cereal manufacturers by taping Flexi-Disc singles to the box, which in more recent years since the fall of vinyl became CD singles or CD-ROM demo discs for computer games.
If a particular cereal wasn’t giving away some piece of plastic tat, or you were only allowed the shops own brand of cereals, all was not lost. Quite often the box itself could be the toy, with a cut out model to make or a boardgame on the back, but even more cunning were the special offers where you could get something a bit more worthwhile by collecting up a number of tokens.
The trouble with the token collecting offers was that you usually had to munch your way through at least four boxes of cereals to get enough tokens to send off. Assuming you managed to do this before the offer was withdrawn you then had to sellotape some coins to a piece of cardboard to get your “free” gift. OK, the coins were technically intended for “post and packing” costs, but I still felt a bit cheated as it didn’t really seem all that “free” to me having to send in money.
Do you have any particular memories of toys or other gifts in breakfast cereals that you particularly enjoyed? If so, please share them with us by posting a comment below!