When I heard about Kraft’s decision to make some of its new kid-friendly shaped pasta versions of Macaroni & Cheese without artificial dyes, I was encouraged for a few minutes. Then I read the details.
Kraft will use spices like paprika for coloring instead of artificial dyes in three products set to be released next year – versions of the company's boxed Macaroni & Cheese With Pasta in SpongeBob SquarePants shapes, Halloween shapes and winter shapes. It will not be removing the artificial dye from the original flavor Macaroni & Cheese, a product that is incredibly popular with children.
Not only will Kraft not be removing the dyes from the original, elbow-shaped Macaroni & Cheese, the company made a point to say that its decision to replace the artificial dyes in the new products isn’t a direct response to the Change.org petition, which garnered about 348,000 signatures from consumers. The petition asks Kraft to voluntarily remove the artificial food dyes in the Macaroni & Cheese, something it already does in the U.K.
It seems to me like Kraft is saying to consumers, “We’ve heard you, and we’re going to do what you want, but we want you think you had nothing to do with it.” I don’t understand this. It’s almost toddler-like in its reasoning.
When my boys were toddlers, there were times when they’d be told to do something like pick up their toys. In trying to exercise independence, they would not pick up the toys they were told to pick up, but rather they’d do something like organize the books on their shelf. They wanted to be independent, but they knew they had to do something to appease their parents.
This is exactly what this announcement from Kraft feels like to me. Kraft knows it needs to please its customers, but darn it, it doesn’t want the customer to know it. The thing is, my boys learned by the time they were done toddling that the attitude didn’t fly. The adults at Kraft perhaps haven’t figured it out yet.
Kraft will also be adding more whole grains and “reduce the amount of sodium and saturated fat” in the new products. This, along with the replacement of artificial dyes is a step in a really good direction, but the announcement that none of this is because of consumer request sits badly with me.
Perhaps Kraft wants to see how consumers here in the U.S. respond to the revamped Mac & Cheese in the new shapes before it changes the formula for the best-selling version. I understand that from a business perspective. But, by making a point to say the decision has nothing to do with consumer concerns, the company is alienating all those consumers asking them to change instead of saying, “Hey, we’re working on this.”
Do you think Kraft made a poor public relations move by denying that consumers had anything to do with the changes?
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