Feeling the heat from competing macaroni and cheese products, Kraft Mac & Cheese announced today that it will be eliminating the dyes from its popular product. The bright color we’ve come to associate with the food will come from tumeric, annatto and paprika instead.
Starting January 2016, it’ll also do away with artificial preservatives.
The announcement is the latest to come from a big food company looking to keep up with consumer tastes, which have tended towards more natural ingredients. It’s a shift we’ve seen illustrated clearly in fast food, but foods sold for home consumption have also felt the effects. According to CBS News correspondent Mellody Hobson, the brand sells a million boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese every day, but sales have slipped just a bit as it gets squeezed by the competition, such as Organic Annie‘s.
There’s also the pressure from health activists, such as Vani Hari, who has been discredited, but still mobilized hundreds of thousands of consumers in an online petition over the issue of what is put in our food.
The trick will be making the change without altering the taste. Hobson says some parents are concerned that picky children who have a diet largely made up of Kraft Mac & Cheese won’t eat anything if the recipe is tinkered with.
Ultimately, that will be the balance: preserving the taste and brand qualities that everyone has grown to love while shifting ingredients. This is a big change for the food industry, but one that would be best tackled now rather than later when brands will be rushing to catch up.
From a PR point of view, these updates provide companies with a chance to talk up their efforts to meet the needs and desires of consumers. It also opens them up to criticism if the new taste isn’t up to snuff. We think it’s kind of hard to go wrong with Mac & Cheese. And if the taste is actually less synthetic and improved, there might even be a few more adults indulging come 2016.