Kraft Runs the Largest Blind Taste Test Ever, And No One Noticed
To test a healthier recipe, the food giant put it out to market with no one the wiser
When you think of macaroni and cheese, you no doubt think about Kraft, which has managed to own the title of the “cheesiest” brand out there. The company has a reputation to uphold, so when they changed their recipe and conducted the world’s largest blind taste test without consumers’ knowledge, more than a few people were surprised.
Last year, Kraft announced that they would be changing the recipe for their famed macaroni and cheese, but not everyone was excited about it, primarily because people don’t like change and also because the recipe would be taking a healthier route. As we’ve long known, preservatives in processed foods make a big difference in a person’s health and weight.
People weren’t entirely thrilled with the announcement. “They came to us on our Facebook page, they came to us online, they called our consumer center,” says Greg Guidotti, Senior Marketing Director for the Kraft Heinz Company about concerns that the great taste would disappear with a new recipe.
It was then that they decided that they wouldn’t tell anyone they were changing the recipe and see what happened. On March 7, 2016, they announced they’d been keeping their taste test a secret since December.
And you’d think changing the recipe of one of America’s most familiar and beloved foods, and not telling anyone when you did it would cause a stir. But in the last three months, Kraft Mac & Cheese has sold over 50 million boxes of their new recipe, and fans didn’t notice. They replaced artificial dyes (yellow 5 and 6) with paprika, annatto and turmeric, while keeping the iconic look, taste and texture fans are used to—so as our new campaign goes: “It’s changed. But it hasn’t.”
Announcement to the World
They announced their change to the world through a series of clever commercials posted to YouTube, shown on television, shared through social media, announced in-store, and run through radio ads on Pandora. Their intent is to spread the word as far as possible that a healthier recipe doesn’t mean sacrificing the taste.
One video opens to show former host of The Daily Show and Late, Late Show, Craig Kilborn, holding a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese saying, “For the last three months we’ve been quietly selling Kraft Macaroni & Cheese with no artificial flavors, preservatives or dyes. And guess what? Moms didn’t notice…Kids didn’t notice…This guy named bill didn’t notice…Millennials who hate being called millennials didn’t notice,” and so on.
The transition to a new recipe has been virtually seamless thanks to the delivery. “I think they’re doing a smart thing by not telling everyone, let them continue to enjoy it, and then reveal it,” Kilborn said after filming. “I like to call it the world’s largest blind taste test, but I’m very good with words.”
Another video shows the factory production in Springfield, MO of their blue box product, discussing some of the changes they made and how no one could tell a difference.
“We didn’t call out the change on our package when we started producing it because we knew people were going to be concerned about the taste,” he continued. It’s pretty typical for the taste to change dramatically when a company makes the decision to switch to a healthier makeup. “This is the biggest thing we’ve ever done, and nothing would make me happier than having nobody notice.”
It looks like Guidotti’s wishes came true, according to the video.
“We’ve been monitoring social media, and the response has been the same as it always has been,” says Kathryn Cecchin, Senior Associate Brand Manager at the Kraft Heinz Company. They also approached several loyal Kraft Mac & Cheese customers to see if they noticed the difference, and the response was still the same.
From now on, the packaging will sport the new recipe that has no artificial preservatives, dyes, and flavors, but unlike many other companies that have lost business over a healthier recipe change, Kraft’s revenues are projected to stay the same. They may even increase since they’re targeting a larger audience.