The History of Noodles and Dinner Kits; Kraft: Part Two

  • A million boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese sell every day.

Have you read The History of Noodles and Dinner Kits; Boyardee: Part One? Because this is part two.

All the while Boyardee is making a name for himself and changing the face of the history of noodles and dinner kits, a man in Chicago is looking to do some of the same. That is, corned the market on noodles and dinner kits.

The company is none other than Kraft, home of some of our absolute favorite foods. Kraft acquired more than 40 brands, from salad dressing to mayo and becomes a $26 million dollar company to this day.

At the time, James L. Kraft was only selling dairy. He couldn’t let competition catch up and he needed to be doing something new to broaden the horizons of the company.

Large companies like Kraft were hit hard during the Depression as well. It had a negative impact on Kraft’s bottom line. Convenience products were the first to go, because they cost a little more.

Kraft sold plenty of products back in the day, from salad dressing to

condiments. But it’s mostly mayonnaise that sees a huge loss in sales.

Hellmanns debuted in 1912. The product mayonnaise generates over $1 million dollars a year through the 1920s.

It’s easy to make but has a really short shelf life. The high cost of ingredients puts mayonnaise out of reach for most American families at the time.

Kraft focuses on making a cheaper mayonnaise. He said he wanted a machine made to make mayonnaise that doesn’t use egg, that won’t separate and will sit on the shelf indefinitely.

Kraft wanted to create a better recipe than Hellmanns. His company used a recipe containing mostly vinegar, corn starch, oil and spices. And a little egg. The scientist found that when you turn up the machine, it creates emulsification.

The product is comparable to mayo but at a much lower cost. In those days, most transportation was a horse during a time when Kraft was developing a machine that can continuously produce this product.

Miracle whip was born in 1933. The first of it sold for only 18 cents a jar, a  1/3 the cost of mayonnaise.

There cans be lots of hate for miracle whip over mayo, depending on who you ask. But Kraft set a huge ad budget of $1 million at 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair, set to make Kraft the new king of mayo.

Kraft gambled a small fortune on his new product. It was successful at the world fair. So much so that he took it national.

Miracle Whip was cheaper and lasted longer on the shelf. Within months, Miracle Whip sells out all other mayo and dressing, but it still wasn’t enough for Kraft.

Kraft and some employees were throwing around ideas. The wanted to make repackaged meals you can do at home. Someone asked, “What can we give them that’s cheap and easy?”

“Macaroni,” she said. “Noodles and cheese, cheap and easy.”

Thomas Jefferson loved cuisines across Europe so select people were already eating something very close to macaroni and cheese. Jefferson loved pasta and imported macaroni and parmesan to make the mac and cheese they served regularly at the White House.

Kraft’s resident chef suggests reviving the dish. She was one of the first woman working in the food industry. Her name was Marye Dahnke and she was always looking for ways to prepare foods that Kraft had developed.

“It’s gross,” someone else said. “You might as well give people olives and jelly.” But Dahnke says it’s a good idea and Kraft agrees.

With Kraft’s backing, Dahnke has made her own take on Macaroni and Cheese. The mac and cheese, cheese, was actually Kraft’s first original flop. Can you believe that?

They had such a surplus of the product at the warehouse, that the shelves

were full of product that lasted for 20 years.

This product is new and great for people. It’s shelf stable and lighter. And it smells ok. Upon trying it, the naysayer does admit that it, “Tastes good.” It doesn’t spoil, is light, shipped economically and was a  great value to consumers. At this point they were pretty sure they had a winner.

Kraft’s dinner is pretty genius from a seller standpoint. The consumer has to add the most expensive components, if they want to.  But this was not the only pasta meal on the shelves

Kraft wants to take their seat at the head of the table. A not too shabby 9

million boxes of mac and cheese sold in the first year,  equivalent to $33 million dollars today.

Mac and cheese is promoted by the government for families limiting meat and the dish is two boxes for a single ration stamp, a total steal. (And literally put the product into ever American household. Times two.)

Kraft’s macaroni and cheese sold 50 million boxes that year, a 6 fold increase from the past year.

He joined Boyardee making rations for the soldier.  He was supplied over 100 million pounds of processed cheese.

After mac and cheese, the early 50s launched products with tons of advertising on tv, including kraft deluxe slices. The was the first wrapped cheese that was available.

Cheese Whiz, Cool Whip and Jello pudding were huge sellers for Kraft as well, and still are to this day.

Once the largest cheese company, turned Kraft Heinz, became one of the five largest food corporations worldwide. Mac and cheese still thrives as one of their best selling products.

What is your favorite Boyardee or Kraft product? Did you know all this cool stuff about their history?