Animal crackers, the famously animal-shaped snacks of all our childhoods, hit the shelves for the first time 116 years ago. And in all that time, the art on the front of the box has been the same: four exotic animals locked behind the bars of cages, presumably at a traveling circus.
Now, however, following pressure from animal rights groups like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the design is changing to depict a more humane situation for the creatures.
In Spring 2016, PETA wrote a letter to Mondelez International, the parent company of Nabisco, which read:
Given the egregious cruelty inherent in circuses that use animals and the public's swelling opposition to the exploitation of animals used for entertainment, we urge Nabisco to update its packaging in order to show animals who are free to roam in their natural habitats.
Mondelez was surprisingly receptive to the suggestion, and got to work right away on replacing the iconic art. The new boxes, which bear the label "new look, same great taste," feature a zebra, elephant, lion, giraffe, and gorilla walking side by side through the African savannah insteaed of being cooped up in cages.
Though noticeably more humane, the re-design kept the well-known color scheme and fonts of the original, which gives the new packaging a familiar feel.
Jason Levine, Mondelez's chief marketing officer for North America, issued a statement that read:
When PETA reached out about Barnum's, we saw this as another great opportunity to continue to keep this brand modern and contemporary.
The changes to animal crackers are also meant to reflect our culture's growing disapproval of holding wild animals in captivity for entertainment. Animal Defenders International reports that "80 U.S. cities have fully or partially banned circuses with wild animals." The famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was forced to close down last May due to low sales.
PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman was incredibly pleased to see the change to animal crackers packaging:
The new box for Barnum's Animals crackers perfectly reflects that our society no longer tolerates the caging and chaining of wild animals for circus shows.
The times are changing, and it seems animal crackers are changing with them.