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How Kraft Uses Patents to Dominate the Mac and Cheese Wars


How Kraft Uses Patents to Dominate the Mac and Cheese Wars

Posted: 01/18/2013 10:45 am


The arms race is vicious and cut-throat. Competitors urgently strive to strike big-ticket deals with media companies. At the same time, their lawyers are running out and filing patents to protect multi-million dollar designs. And that is just the first step. Drafting the pieces seems simple, but in actuality borders on the impossible. All lines must intersect, and each one has a minimum viable thickness to which it must adhere. The hard pieces must be able to retain their shapes even when placed in boiling water for as long as 10 minutes, all while transforming into a soft, malleable form.

And then, these pieces of macaroni need to hold -- and taste good with -- liquefied orange goop charitably called "cheese." Welcome to the mac and cheese wars.

Every day, Kraft Foods sells one million boxes of its trademark mac and cheese in their iconic blue box. Maintaining that customer base isn't to be taken for granted, however, as after a while, children who grew up on mac and cheese age, and, in turn, stop eating it. So Kraft has to attract new mac and cheese fans -- and to do so, it relies on an ever-expanding army of creatively-shaped pieces of pasta.

Enter people like Guillermo Haro. As elucidated by this Wall Street Journal profile, Haro and his team of "pasta architects" are core to the brand's ongoing success. And it's not child's play. Haro and others are charged with developing new pasta shapes which will capture the fancy of young eaters, yes, but drawing up silly shapes hardly describes the process fairly. In over two decades of pasta-shaping, Haro has come up with 2,000 designs, of which a mere 280 have made it to consumers. At fewer than 100 designs a year with an 85 percent rejection rate, that's a lot of pasta experimentation -- and a lot of failure.

The difficulties are a mix of intellectual property pitfalls and then, design ones. On one hand, there's a team of business development professionals who look to partner with brands the children already know and love -- the Journal cites "Spongebob Squarepants" and "Phineas and Ferb" -- and enter into agreements to make pasta shaped like these characters. On the other hand, sometimes Haro and team come up with their own fun shapes, such as the U.S.-shaped pasta drawn above. If they succeed, the next step is to get the design patented, which happens more than one would expect. A search of Google's patent index shows over 2,000 or so patents involving shaped pasta. Haro and his team are responsible for 29 of them.

In either case, Haro's mission is to make sure that the pasta does all the things mac and cheese pasta should do. It has to retain its shape after being boiled -- what kid wants to eat a disintegrated Spongebob or Phineas' friend, Blob? Further, the pasta has to hold onto just the right amount of whatever the cheese-like substance that orange powder is, and, of course, taste good.

If they could only do this for vegetables.

Bonus fact: The song "Yankee Doodle" speaks of a man who "stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni." Why would a young gentleman from the American Revolution want to pretend he had pasta in his hat? He wouldn't. "Macaroni," in that context and in mid-18th century England, referred to a man with an extremely unique sense of fashion, as seen here. Macaronis were typically high class fellows and the lyric from "Yankee Doodle" is sarcastic, poking fun at the cultural ignorance of those in the New World. (Americans would, nonetheless, reclaim the song as their own, singing it with honor.) Where'd the fashion term "macaroni" come from? Back to the noodle we go. The macaroni pasta was a favorite of young, upper-class British men who traveled to Italy, and the term came (temporarily) to mean "trendy" or "fashionable."

How far you go in life depends on your being: tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of both the weak and strong.  Because someday in life you would have been one or all of these.  GeorgeWashingtonCarver


by on Jan. 18, 2013 at 1:04 PM
Replies (21-30):
jesusismyfriend
by Silver Member on Jan. 18, 2013 at 5:33 PM



Quoting wickedfiress:

I'm a mac & cheese snob and only buy Kraft..... until I sent my husband grocery shopping and he is like his mom, who buys the cheapest of whatever it is he's buying. .. so he bought this other brand and it's WAY BETTER than Kraft! I can't remember what it was ...  Auntie's  or maybe Annie's 


Me too but I do buy auntie Anne's. very good. I will say I never buy the squeeze Mac and cheese. I have to have the powder.

lga1965
by on Jan. 18, 2013 at 5:38 PM

 I LOVE the 3 cheese shells.....but do you know how unhealthy that crap is>??? I won't eat it anymore. Even though I love it. OMG....I do.

Euphoric
by Bazinga! on Jan. 18, 2013 at 5:40 PM

 lol

Quoting katy_kay08:

there is a mac and cheese war?  Was there a draft?  

 

 

www.cafemom.com/group/116692
Euphoric
by Bazinga! on Jan. 18, 2013 at 5:41 PM
1 mom liked this

 Home made mac and cheese is awesome.

Quoting Sekirei:

I make my own.. one of the few things I can make from scratch lol

 

www.cafemom.com/group/116692
Kitschy
by on Jan. 18, 2013 at 5:43 PM

We rarely buy boxed mac and cheese but when we do I buy Aunt Annie's. Bunny Mac only around here.

LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Jan. 18, 2013 at 5:43 PM

I'll never understand why people who don't (or can't or won't) eat wheat and barley keep trying to find (and pay for! OMG!) wheat-like foods.

It's so much cheaper not to buy or eat a product than it is to find anything like an equivalent substitute. I just don't get it.

Quoting talia-mom:

Gluten free mac and cheese is just not the same and at 3.49 a box, I just bake some gf pasta with some Swiss and butter and bacon.


LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Jan. 18, 2013 at 5:44 PM

Annie's is awesome!

It's still junk food, but it's lower in salt and has no weird dye.

Quoting jesusismyfriend:



Quoting wickedfiress:

I'm a mac & cheese snob and only buy Kraft..... until I sent my husband grocery shopping and he is like his mom, who buys the cheapest of whatever it is he's buying. .. so he bought this other brand and it's WAY BETTER than Kraft! I can't remember what it was ...  Auntie's  or maybe Annie's 


Me too but I do buy auntie Anne's. very good. I will say I never buy the squeeze Mac and cheese. I have to have the powder.


LindaClement
by Thatwoman on Jan. 18, 2013 at 5:45 PM

Strange fact of the day:

The KD sold in Canada is nothing like the KD sold in the US.

talia-mom
by Gold Member on Jan. 18, 2013 at 5:50 PM
Becfause your 4 year old misses whAt she loved. I am sure your kids were perfect and never would miss their favorite food. My daughter did. It was already hard enough attending parties. I thought I would try to give her something that was a comfort.




Quoting LindaClement:

I'll never understand why people who don't (or can't or won't) eat wheat and barley keep trying to find (and pay for! OMG!) wheat-like foods.

It's so much cheaper not to buy or eat a product than it is to find anything like an equivalent substitute. I just don't get it.

Quoting talia-mom:

Gluten free mac and cheese is just not the same and at 3.49 a box, I just bake some gf pasta with some Swiss and butter and bacon.



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stacymomof2
by Ruby Member on Jan. 18, 2013 at 5:52 PM

lol, Mac and cheese is reserved for a day where it's either that or fast food.  Not even once a month.  The girls like it but not the shapes, just the basic.  

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