Kraft Heinz Extends Cracker Barrel Brand Into Mac and Cheese

Cracker Barrel Marketing Plays on Awards to Win Over Diners

By Published on .

Advertising Age Player

Kraft macaroni and cheese is getting a little bit of competition from its own company.

On Monday, Kraft Heinz will begin promoting its Cracker Barrel macaroni and cheese, which hit shelves in February. The product is an extension of the cheese brand that's been around since the 1950s and is perhaps best known in the Northeast.

Cracker Barrel macaroni, which comes with liquid cheese, is positioned at a premium to Kraft's other boxed macaroni and cheese products, including the main brand with powdered cheese. The aim is to win over those consumers, including families with older children, who buy prepared macaroni and cheese from restaurants or refrigerated sections at grocery stores rather than shelf-stable packaged varieties.

A new campaign from CP&B called "Award Worth Winning" pokes fun at things that earn awards, such as spelling and dogs, while touting the awards that Cracker Barrel cheese has racked up over the years.

"With such an established reputation in the premium space, we saw an opportunity to extend the brand into the macaroni and cheese category to help us reach consumers who no longer shop the shelf-stable macaroni and cheese aisle," said Johnni Rodgers, brand manager, meal solutions.

Advertising Age Player

Using the Cracker Barrel name and flavors such as sharp cheddar and sharp white cheddar, Kraft hopes to entice people who are looking for "quality foods with more sophisticated flavors," Ms. Rodgers said.

Of course, Kraft already dominates the shelf-stable boxed macaroni and cheese category with products including the main Kraft macaroni and cheese, which recently dropped artificial flavors, preservatives and synthetic colors. It has faced increased competition in stores from Annie's and other brands, while restaurants have been dishing out upscale macaroni and cheese dishes including bacon, lobster or other ingredients.

The product is priced at a slight premium to other boxed macaroni and cheese products, but still below competitors such as those found in the refrigerated or deli section or meals at restaurants. It does not contain artificial flavors or dyes, but there are preservatives.

Marketing plans include 15-second and 30-second commercials set to break today and run through September. In social media, a "trophy exchange" offering discounts to people who share photos of their old trophies on Facebook. In-store plans include promoting the product in places such as the meat section as the brand tries to target consumers who may not typically stop by the packaged macaroni and cheese section of the store.

The Cracker Barrel cheese brand began in 1954 and was named after the cracker barrel area where people would gather in a country store. It is separate from Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, a restaurant and retail chain that began in 1969 and is often called Cracker Barrel.

Kraft sued the chain in 2013 over its plans to sell products in grocery stores carrying the Cracker Barrel name. The companies settled later that year, with the Cracker Barrel chain agreeing to instead use the "CB Old Country Store" brand on grocery products.

Coincidentally, the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store chain serves macaroni and cheese, but a Kraft spokeswoman said there are no ongoing discussions between the companies and that the Kraft Heinz line of Cracker Barrel macaroni and cheese products is unrelated to the restaurant chain. A Cracker Barrel representative could not be reached by press time.

Kraft spent nearly $11.4 million on Cracker Barrel marketing in 2014, down 33.1% from a year earlier, according to data from the Ad Age Datacenter. CP&B is the creative agency on the project, with Starcom on media and Ketchum handling public relations.

Most Popular