Since its launch in 1937, Kraft Mac & Cheese has been a staple in American households. The convenient meal, packed in its iconic blue box, has gained immense popularity, selling more than one million boxes daily. Kraft Mac & Cheese is so popular that it is considered Canada’s de facto national dish (sorry, poutine!), highlighting its enduring global appeal.
To keep the legacy going strong at a time when consumers are increasingly ditching dairy, Kraft’s iconic Mac & Cheese is now getting a modern makeover with the launch of Kraft NotMac & Cheese.
The new vegan version of the classic—the first of its kind to hit store shelves in the United States—was developed under a joint venture with The Kraft Heinz Not Company and Chilean startup The Not Company (NotCo) which uses artificial intelligence to develop identical plant-based alternatives to animal products.
“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,” Lucho Lopez-May, CEO of The Kraft Heinz Not Company, said in a statement.
“By 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,” he said.
A modern spin on Kraft’s classic blue box mac
With the help of NotCo’s AI-powered platform (which is called “Giuseppe”), the Kraft Heinz Not Company decided to reimagine the iconic blue box meal to keep up with the rapid growth of the plant-based food sector—where the distribution of healthier mac and cheese products are outstripping the overall category by more than six times.
Despite this growth, the plant-based mac and cheese segment has faced challenges, with less than 30 percent of buyers making repeat purchases, primarily due to taste and texture issues.
The Kraft Heinz Not Company
“We know the plant-based industry continues to grow,” a spokesperson for The Kraft Heinz Not Company tells VegNews. “However, taste and texture are the largest pain points for plant-based mac and cheese buyers when it comes to repeating purchases.”
“When deciding which products to bring to market, we analyze various categories, taste, and ingredient profiles as well as the consumer need for a great tasting product, and plant-based mac and cheese rose to the top,” the spokesperson says.
The Kraft Heinz Not Company hopes to lure consumers in time and again with its new Kraft NotMac&Cheese, which maintains the brand’s legacy while delivering a just-as-creamy plant-based alternative to the classic. Free from artificial dyes, the creamy base is made with fava bean protein and coconut oil powder. Plus, each box comes with easy-to-prepare pasta and sauce, just like the original.
“At Kraft Heinz, we’re consumer obsessed,” the spokesperson says. “This means we’re continuously innovating through our iconic brands to deliver consistent quality products and respond to the evolving needs and preferences of all our consumers.”
From social listening, the company knew Kraft Mac & Cheese fans in the US had been asking for a plant-based version of the blue box favorite for years. Consumers can expect to find the new vegan Kraft NotMac&Cheese on shelves at stores nationwide in two flavors, Original and White Cheddar, as it rolls out widely from now until early 2024.
“Through our joint venture with NotCo, we’re able to deliver the creamy and comforting experience consumers have loved for decades, now plant-based, with Kraft NotMac&Cheese,” the spokesperson says. “Nobody knows mac and cheese like Kraft Heinz.”
Kraft gets into vegan cheese
In addition to mac and cheese, Kraft Heinz is known for a wide range of iconic products—all of which are contenders for a plant-based makeover under the joint venture with NotCo.
Prior to its venture into blue box mac, The Kraft Heinz Company released plant-based versions of Kraft’s iconic cheese Singles. Called Kraft NotCheese Slices, the vegan cheeses hit stores in three flavors—American, Cheddar, and Provolone—right before the Fourth of July holiday this year. The joint venture has also resulted in the launch of NotMayo, a vegan take on Kraft’s mayonnaise.
These three iconic products hit shelves in the last 12 months, speaking to the speed of NotCo’s technology in combination with Kraft’s food industry expertise.
“Thanks to the power of The Kraft Heinz Not Company, we were able to create a delicious product in record time and fulfill a consumer need in the category, which was important to us,” the spokesperson says.
This joint venture between Kraft Heinz and NotCo, leveraging NotCo’s AI technology, is a critical step in transforming Kraft Heinz’s product portfolio towards more sustainable, ethical, and plant-based options. The partnership aims to reshape the food landscape and set new standards for plant-based innovation.
“The Kraft Heinz Not Company’s mission is to create mouthwatering plant-based foods for all, and our vision is to be the indispensable plant-based food company by accelerating the adoption of plant-based foods. Simply put, we want to bring plant-based to the masses by making it easy, accessible, and delicious,” the spokesperson says.
With plans to scale into several more categories and begin international expansion in 2024, The Kraft Heinz Not Company has the power to catalyze a major shift within the global consumer goods industry with its plant-based transformation of popular Kraft products.
“With the scale of Kraft Heinz and the AI solutions from NotCo, we want to develop plant-based versions of the brands consumers know and love at a level of speed and taste that’s never been done before,” the spokesperson says.
Outside of its joint venture with NotCo, Kraft Heinz has been expanding its plant-based portfolio internationally.
In Australia, a vegan version of the classic Kraft Mac & Cheese has been on shelves for several years. Stateside, Kraft Heinz also released a plant-based version of its iconic Philadelphia cream cheese in three flavors: Original, Strawberry, and Chive & Onion.
Plus, until December 15, Kraft is running a contest asking its fanbase to come up with new flavors for boxed mac and cheese for a chance to win one of two $10,000 prizes. Given the launch of Kraft NotMac & Cheese, a vegan flavor idea might just be the golden ticket.