Eating KD ©

Kraft challenged by ‘healthier’ Mac and Cheeses?

If you can’t beat ’em, be ‘healthier’ than them… That seems to be the tack the competition is taking in their attempt to carve out a bit of Kraft’s monster share of the Mac & Cheese Dinner market. The question remains… Do diehard KD fans really want a healthier fix?

A Classic KD Ad featuring the classic KD consumer: a six year old kid.
He grew up and went to college where he lived on the stuff – with ketchup,
of course – until he got married and his wife insisted he try other foods…

Okay… That’s a loaded question, but I wanted to make the point that I believe the diehard KD fans are the ones who will see Kraft through this storm. Let’s look at how severe a storm is it is…

More like a flurry?

First, let’s dissuade any readers who might be worrying that good old KD, in all it’s ersatz glory, is on the way out. The competitors which are currently coming out of the woodwork are best described – as far as I can see – as ‘cottage industry’ purveyors of specialty and ‘organic’ products. And they’re catering to the minority that insists on ‘something better’ even if it costs significantly more. Now, for those whose dining choices are effected by the fat, salt and carb content of foods, no new age Mac & Cheese is going to look that much more enticing than real-deal KD. Except that the ingredients may include a little less salt and somewhat fewer artificial additives.

Who’s buying the line?

A recent Reuters report on the business aspects of this story suggests that the market demographic the upstarts are aiming at is typified by the educated young mom who is concerned about what her kids are eating. She could be seen as trying to minimize the dietary ‘badness’ to which she exposes her kids (already addicted to Mac & Cheese) while keeping them happy. A Kraft spokesperson counters with this statement to Reuters:

“Consumers (are) seeking more fresh, real foods that are made with simple ingredient lines, and we have to think that this is more than just a premium trend,” Kraft Chief Executive Tony Vernon said at a recent industry conference in Boca Raton, Florida. “We are democratizing health and wellness, we are not marketing to the 1 percent.”

‘Democratizing health and wellness’ – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Mac & Cheese. A Master Marketing Stroke. Truth, Justice and the American Spin. Fine. But there’s another aspect to this story which should not be ingnored…

Kraft is meeting them in the middle

In a recent post, we opined that Kraft may be playing with fire by making changes to it’s classic processed cheese products – including KD, which uses a powdered, dehydrated version of venerable old Velveeta (also marketed as Kraft Singles and in spreadable form as Cheez Whiz).

The gist of that story is that it’s dangerous to mess with success. Well, Kraft is walking the edge with it’s recent plan to reduce objectionable ingredients and additives – with an emphasis on mainting the colour, texture and flavour its legions of fans are used to. It’s a safe way to go, and it meets the specialty and ‘organic’ players in the middle of the great ‘healthiness’ divide.

The moral(s) of this story…

1. Continue to ask: HOW MUCH better ‘healthier’ alternatives are before making any changes.

2. ‘Healthier’ alternatives will always COST more. Is a 25, 40 or even 60 per cent price premium over the old, standard product really worth it to you?

3. Continue to ask: Do I eat enough of this stuff to warrant worrying about the health aspects? Sometimes – like, for instance, three or four times a year – a good old-fashioned KD pig-out is just what the happiness doctor ordered…Let’s face it: Nobody could live on it like, for instance, every day!

Kraft isn’t afraid of losing a sliver of market share out on the extremities of its giant slice of the Processed Cheese Food Market wheel. You shouldn’t be concerned about losing classic KD or its store brand analogues any time soon.

…And Auntie Mag reminds you: All things in moderation, including Mac and Cheese…

~ Maggie J.


  1. Hi Maggie,

    I think that you are right on here. If someone wants healthier Mac & Cheese they aren’t going to get it from a package. They will go out and buy whole grain pasta noodles and make a cheese sauce from scratch using Cheddar or their favourite cheese. That way a person can control exactly what is in their Mac & Cheese hit.

    Peter W.

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