Kraft Launches Mac & Cheese Dinner – Without Cheese

In the US it’s ‘Kraft Mac & Cheese’. In Canada, it’s always (to my recollection) been plain old ‘Kraft Dinner’. Whatever you call it, it’s always had Cheese sauce. But now, in a historic move, Kraft is launching new ‘NotMac & Cheese’, using plant-based products…

NotMac & Cheese - © 2023 Kraft/Heinz

Kraft has had plant-based versions of 2 other products on the shelves for a while now: NotMayo and NotCheese Slices. And to be fair, they’ve been selling a vegan version of Kraft Mac & Cheese in Australia since 2021.

But the home (US) market is only just getting its first look at the ‘M&C of the Future’ (as I’ve chosen to call it). It’s a collaboration (as were the two previous vegan products) with another Kraft/Heinz company named – you guessed it – NotCo.

Fiddling with with a classic?

“The Kraft Heinz Not Company creates plant-based versions of fan-favorite foods that taste like the real thing, yet don’t require people to drastically change their eating habits,” says NotCo CEO Lucho Lopez-May in a news release.

“NotCo brings its revolutionary AI technology that has a proven track record in creating mouthwatering plant-based foods to KRAFT – the beloved mac & cheese brand that sells over a million boxes every day. Leveraging the strengths of both companies, we’re offering the creamy and comforting experience KRAFT Mac & Cheese fans have loved for over 85 years – without the dairy.”

Here’s where the ‘fiddle’ comes in. You still have to add milk to the pot after draining the macaroni elbows to stir up the powdered sauce mix into a creamy treat. But in a side note to the Australian vegan M&C story, the company there apparently suggests using Soy milk rather than cow’s milk. I wonder what that does to the famous ‘creamy and comforting experience‘?

No word yet from vegans out there on their evaluation of the product.

The name game

Yep. That rather clumsy sounding name has also generated a lot of chatter. Folks from different quarters have suggested they should have called the product ‘Mac & NotCHeese’. That would make total sense – except that the other two NotCo-partnered products already out there have the ‘Not’ at the beginning. Still…

Fans weigh in

Online commenters on the NotMac & Cheese announcement were – to say the least – unfriendly to the idea:

“[T]his product has not been [real] cheese for years.”

“You can ‘plant’ these right into the trash.”

And one disgruntled commenter simply asked:


The obvious question

The answer to that last compelling question is simply this: As the official news release states, upfront:

The plant-based industry continues to grow, with distribution for better-for-you mac & cheese products outpacing the overall category by more than six times. However, less than thirty percent of plant-based mac & cheese buyers are repeating purchase as taste and texture remain their largest pain points.

There you go

In plain, non-marketing English, vegetarians and vegans have been flocking to try new non-dairy, plant-based versions of old faves. Remember, none of us is born vegetarian, much less vegan. It’s a learned behaviour as the result of a conscious choice. Often, it’s a forcibly-acquired taste, informed by philosophy rather than physiology.

The problem, Kraft reveals is that none of the plant-based dairy products already on the market has managed to attract significant brand loyalty. Two out of three potential vegetarian/vegan customers from the exploding new market segment are not buying existing plant-based products a second time after trying them once – apparently because they just don’t like them. Kraft wants to be the go-to non-dairy Mac & Cheese brand, echoing its monumental supremacy in the conventional boxed M&C market.

To Boldly Go…

… Where no other boxed Mac & Cheese maker has gone before. That’s Kraft’s self-imposed mission. We’ll have to wait and see whether its NotMac & Cheese develops enough fan power to propel its sales to warp speed.

~ Maggie J.