I’ve heard heated debate between boxed mac & cheese brands in kitchens, grocery stores, dorm rooms, and the internet. Kraft is known for dominating the mac & cheese game for decades, but Annie’s has gained popularity in the past decade for its appeal to organic ingredients. Who takes the prize? Here’s a brief overview of our two contenders:
Kraft: The iconic creamy, cheddar mac and cheese that brands itself as coming straight from your childhood. Famous for its cheap price and character shaped pasta including Star Wars and Ninja Turtles.
Annies: Branded as the organic alternative to boxed mac & cheese, straight from the farm to the box. Famous for its gluten free and vegan options as well as a classic trio of cheese flavors including white cheddar.
Comparing the ingredients alone, the two brands match up pretty equally, however Annie’s pasta is made from wheat whereas Kraft’s is from an enriched product. I’ve found that the difference between the make of the two pastas is noticeable — Annie’s definitely has less of an artificial taste. If you are someone who puts loads of butter and milk into your mac & cheese, this probably wont matter to you. However, if you are vegan or gluten-free, Annie’s might be the brand for you.
I feel somewhat biased towards Kraft since I grew up eating this brand. For as long as I can remember, Kraft was the dinner of choice every time I had play dates with friends and perfect for a quick dinner on a week night. Kraft is definitely more creamy if you add the recommended half a stick of butter (which can seem pretty daunting to put in a small pot of mac, but rewarding in flavor and texture). If you for whatever reason strive to make your mac & cheese meal healthier, use a smaller amount of butter and some low fat milk instead. When I got to college and discovered Annie’s, I started exclusively eating this brand and used both milk and butter to create the perfect texture, though Annie’s recipe only calls for a few tbsp of milk. I continued eating Annie’s because I found the overall quality of the pasta to be better, and the cheese didn’t taste as fake. The price was also the same as Kraft, at least at the grocery store I shop at.
I conducted a few surveys among my friends on social media to collect a little data on their mac & cheese preferences. I asked 20 people whether they preferred Annie’s or Kraft on Snapchat and asked for brief explanation. Though I thought Annie’s would take the trophy for sure, Kraft took the lead by only a couple votes. The final results were 11 votes for Kraft and 9 for Annie’s. Reasons for choosing Kraft mostly fell along the lines of it being cheaper, tastier, and is what they ate growing up. I found these reasonings similar to Kraft’s marketing for their brand, shown on both their website and boxes. Two of their most prominent mantras are “imported from your childhood” and “you know you love it” which seemed to be an accurate representation of the reasons why people prefer Kraft. The people that chose Annie’s mostly argued that the flavor was much better, noting especially the white cheddar flavor, which seems to be one of the most popular among the regular cheese flavors. Surprisingly, no one mentioned its organic appeal.
I decided to use another form of social media to test this theory one more time. I still couldn’t seem to shake the idea that Kraft might actually overrule Annie’s among my friends. So I went to Twitter to try one more poll. I asked the same question, using Twitter’s feature that lets you conduct 24hr polls for your followers to vote on. This poll ended with similar results, around two thirds of people voting for Kraft.
To conclude, I think Kraft took the lead in this mac & cheese showdown mostly because of the brand’s appeal to family and childhood comfort food. It seems like most people who prefer Kraft have been eating since childhood which was when it was first introduced to them. Annie’s mac has only been around for a little over 30 years, so it was not around when our parent’s generation was growing up. Kraft, being 75 years old, is able to create that brand dependency for older generations that has passed down. Whether you are a Kraft or Annie’s person, boxed mac & cheese is definitely a staple in the college diet and cherished by cheese lovers everywhere.