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Kraft Heinz debuts plant-based Mac & Cheese through NotCo joint venture


Dive Brief:

  • Kraft Heinz is launching a plant-based Kraft Mac & Cheese as part of its joint venture with NotCo, the companies said. It’s the first plant-based offering for the popular brand in the U.S.
  • Kraft NotMac&Cheese will be available in Original and White Cheddar flavors, with the products beginning to reach store shelves this week.
  • Mac & Cheese is the third innovation to launch in just over a year from The Kraft Heinz Not Company partnership. Previously, the two companies debuted plant-based versions of sliced cheese and mayonnaise.

Dive Insight:

The joint venture Kraft Heinz established with NotCo in 2022 is wasting little time tapping into the expertise of each company to bring new products to market. Kraft Heinz has the scale and portfolio of recognizable brands, many of which have been around for decades. NotCo, which is based in Chile, uses a powerful artificial intelligence platform it calls Giuseppe to redesign traditional food products with plant-based ingredients.

While Kraft Heinz has developed a number of plant-based products internationally — most notably a plant-based version of its Philadelphia spread  — NotCo remains a key part of the CPG giant’s strategy to bring some of its best-selling items into the non-dairy arena.

Kraft NotMac&Cheese hopes it can avoid some of the pitfalls that have impacted previous offerings in the category, an issue the companies highlighted.

Citing IRI data, Kraft Heinz and NotCo noted that the distribution of better-for-you mac and cheese products is outpacing the overall category by more than six times. Despite this growth, Numerator observed that fewer than 30% of plant-based mac and cheese buyers are repeating purchases due to taste and texture not hitting the spot.

Kraft Heinz, which sells more than 1 million boxes of its signature Mac & Cheese with dairy each day, could be a big winner if its newest launch proves successful. With many people purposely moving between dairy and plant-based products on a regular basis, having a non-dairy option could be invaluable for keeping consumers within the Mac & Cheese brand.

“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. “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.”

Kraft NotMac&Cheese sauce contains plant-based ingredients such as fava bean protein and coconut oil powder, according to The Kraft Heinz Not Company. It also has no artificial dyes and a similar taste, look and feel to dairy-based mac & cheese.

Unlike the NotMayo plant-based mayonnaise packaging that was similar to what NotCo would use for its products, the Kraft NotMac&Cheese goes to great lengths to tap into the broad consumer awareness that shoppers have for the ubiquitous household staple.

It prominently features the mostly blue, red and white Kraft Mac & Cheese logo, with a smaller NotCo image displayed in the lower right corner. The NotCheese, a plant-based version of the iconic Kraft American cheese launched last November, also featured the Kraft logo and the color scheme found on several of the CPG company’s products.

More products between NotCo and Kraft Heinz are expected next year. The two companies previously said they plan to continue scaling across seven categories and expand the joint venture’s items internationally in 2024. 

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