Kraft fesses up: We tricked you into buying our 'new' Mac & Cheese

Why Kraft nixed any promotions for its revamped Mac & Cheese - until this week.

CHICAGO: Customers who have bought Kraft Mac & Cheese since December have been sampling the product’s new recipe – they just didn’t know it.

The brand is coming clean about that little secret with an integrated campaign with the message, "It’s changed, but it hasn’t."

Until this week, Kraft withheld any promotions that its Macaroni & Cheese product was changed to include no artificial flavors or preservatives. Its artificial dyes, yellow 5 and 6, have been replaced with paprika, annatto, and turmeric to maintain its signature yellow color. The changes have been listed on the product’s ingredient line for the past few months.

"[There was] no press release or prominent emblems on boxes, just the same great taste and familiar look, with changes only on the ingredient line," Lynne Galia, head of communications for snack nuts, beverages, meals, and desserts at Kraft Heinz, told PRWeek via email.

The company said last April that it would remove artificial flavors, preservatives, and dyes from Mac & Cheese. Galia added that the new recipe was three years in the making.

"When we originally announced that we were going to change the recipe last April, there was a groundswell of excitement, but there was also a level of questioning," she said. "People said, ‘I hope the taste doesn’t change’ and ‘Don’t mess with my Mac & Cheese.’"

Jeremy Mullman, SVP at Olson Engage, which is handling PR for the reveal, added that "people kind of freaked out" after the brand said there would be changes.

People complained on Twitter at the time about the proposed changes.

Because of the skepticism, Galia explained Kraft wanted fans to experience the new recipe for themselves before the brand began promoting it.

She added that the company has sold 50 million boxes of the new recipe and "virtually nobody" noticed.

Yet now, Kraft is making sure fans can’t miss the new recipe with a marketing strategy that includes an integrated campaign with TV, print, digital, social, and PR elements. Consumers will also notice the brand’s new attributes prominently displayed on the front of product boxes.

The brand is talking about the changes four months after they were implemented so fans can be "pleasantly surprised" Kraft Mac & Cheese tastes the same, said Galia.

"The message we are trying to get out there is it’s changed, but it hasn’t," said Galia. "It’s changed because our new recipe has no artificial flavors, preservatives, or dyes, but it hasn’t because it still has the iconic taste and look we all know and love."

As part of its "post-taste-test" comms strategy, Kraft is thanking consumers who told the brand they #didntnotice on Twitter or on the Macaroni & Cheese Facebook page with gifts including free products, noodle t-shirts, and a macaroni-inspired body pillow.

Many consumers weren’t angry on social media that Kraft changed the recipe without their knowledge.

The TV ad for the campaign features former Daily Show anchor Craig Kilborn revealing the world’s largest "blind taste test."

The campaign will run throughout the year. Budget information was not disclosed.

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