Mac and Cheese is Having a Moment

With many consumers gravitating towards comfort foods in these stressful times, several brands are innovating their mac and cheese products. Some are doing it to diversify their offerings, some to be more competitive against new entrants, and some are trying to adapt to new trends in consumer behavior. In any case, consumers are winning by having more choices than ever before when it comes to this beloved dish.

Like other foodservice brands, Panera is making a bigger push into grocery. Their newest product within their “Panera Bread® at Home” line, Broccoli Cheddar Mac & Cheese, is their first foray into flavor mashups. It combines their most popular soup with one of their most famous side dishes, offering consumers a novel new way to enjoy their favorite Panera products. The addition of vegetables to their traditional mac and cheese also makes it more of a complete meal, appealing to health-conscious shoppers who may be hesitant to indulge in such a carb-heavy treat. This is reminiscient of Oprah’s successful “O! That’s Good™” brand, which adds extra vegetables and nutrients to comfort foods.

New Cheetos® Mac ‘n Cheese offers bold and spicy varieties, and shoppers can choose from classic Bold and Cheesy, Cheesy Jalapeno, and, of course, Flamin’ Hot. In a press release to announce the new product line, Rachel Ferdinando, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Frito-Lay NA, said that “we’ve seen incredible culinary creativity from our Cheetos® fans through the years, taking our product and using as an actual ingredient in recipes — whether at restaurants, or now more than ever, at home.” She went on to add that “we’re putting our orange-dusted fingerprints on an at-home staple at a time when home mealtime occasions are on the rise.”

While this isn’t a new product, Kraft does want consumers to look at their classic boxed mac and cheese in a new way. Their latest campaign aims to convince parents to consider their mac and cheese for breakfast. They’ve even gone so far as to introduce limited edition packaging that prominently features the word “breakfast” to drive the point home. According to an article on Kraft’s website explaining the new campaign, “56% of parents have served their kids Mac & Cheese for breakfast more often during COVID-19 related state lockdowns than previous months.”

The Kraft brand team points out that now that parents will be juggling working from home, watching their children, and acting as stand-in teachers while schools go remote, they have more on their plates than ever before. Boxed mac and cheese, they argue, is a filling and satisfying way for kids to start the day – in addition to being simple and easy to prepare. Even if they hadn’t considered it before, mac and cheese could meet specific new needs that parents have at breakfast time.

Mac and cheese is a classic comfort dish that many consumers turn to when they want something warm, easy, and tasty. By introducing these new innovations, brands are giving shoppers the opportunity to expand their palates while sticking with something that’s familiar.

 

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