In 1996, General Mills began adding redemption offers to its line of cereals. Named Box Tops for Education, the program allowed consumers to clip the offer from the tops of products like Cheerios and forward them to their child’s school, which could redeem each slip for 10 cents; that money was then used to buy school supplies and fund educational events. In the past two decades, the cardboard-based program has paid out nearly $914 million to schools nationwide. Now, it’s getting a digital upgrade.
General Mills is introducing a new app that will allow people collecting box tops to photograph or scan their receipts instead. After buying a participating General Mills product, consumers can submit their proof of purchase by capturing the receipt. The app will automatically donate 10 cents to the school of their choice. Districts typically use the funds for things like iPads, playground equipment, and parties or trips.
Participants will have 14 days from the time they purchase a product to submit their receipt. The company eventually plans to phase out the offer from boxes. Until then, consumers will be free to submit the physical clipping and the receipt, doubling the value of the purchase.
The move to the app has not been universally praised. On the official Box Tops for Education Facebook page, some users have complained that scanning their receipts might disclose to General Mills their consumer spending habits. Others believe that contributors who don’t have smartphones will simply give up on the program. But the move was greeted with relief by others, as snipping the analog box tops can be time-consuming. The offers had to be cut cleanly and packaged in baggies of no more than 50 tops each. Organizers were left to sort through submitted box tops, which could number in the thousands at some schools.
The app is available for iPhone or Android users and can be downloaded via links on the General Mills Box Tops for Education website.