For Little Apparent Reason, Spiral Mac N Cheese Costs 37 Cents More Than Elbow

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Spirals cost 37 cents more per box than regular Elbow variety, despite the former weighing 1.75 oz less than the latter, reports the thoughts on technology blog. This breaks down to a difference of $.06/oz, vs $.14/oz. That’s 24% fewer noodles, with a 133% price increase.

Why such a price difference? Obviously, cheese spirals are a technological marvel and Kraft needs to recoup the cost of building an entire spiral factory, not to mention the research and development. Plus, there’s the benefit of eating mac n cheese feature 3 chicks you’ve never heard of. So, if you’re looking for the best mac n cheese value, stick with the classic elbow box.

spiral macaroni is a racket [thoughts on technology]


Edit Your Comment

  1. clickertrainer says:

    Obviously because the spiral form is easier to eat without spilling on your shirt.

    A side-by-side comparison while wearing a white dry-clean-only shirt should prove that.

  2. chimmike says:

    is this the best you could come up with on a monday?

  3. chimmike says:


  4. rjhiggins says:

    This is the common mistake of equating price with the cost of production. Why do they charge more for sprial? Because people will pay it.

  5. Nick says:

    I noticed this almost ten years ago–I always liked the spirals better than the regular kind, and one day I looked at the weight and discovered the difference. In fact, many stores will sell the regular Mac n Cheese for less than the spiral kind, making the price difference even greater.

  6. CumaeanSibyl says:

    I love how the comments are almost all screamy nonsense about KRAFT IS IMMORALITY IN A BOX, YOU ARE SUCKLING FROM THE CHEESY TEAT OF CAPITALIST POISON GARBAGE.

    And then there’s the one about how spirals have “a more appealing cheese distribution.” Love!

  7. Moosehawk says:

    Actually, the shell noodles with three cheese are the best mac and cheese. They’re soooooo good. I might go home and make a box for lunch actually now.

  8. MikeHerbst says:

    I’m sure the fact that the Elbow Macaroni is by-far the more popular product has *Nothing* to do with the pricing strategy…

    Supply. Demand. Economies of scale.

    Just a few thoughts for a Monday morning.

  9. Everyone knows the spirals taste better. Duh

  10. lawnmowerdeth says:

    I’ve never noticed that, but I have always thought the spirals taste better. Sounds silly, but it’s true.

  11. It’s no question that spiral Mac&Cheese tastes better.

    Just answered your own question there, buddy!

  12. Kwummy says:

    Slow news day, Ben?

  13. helen says:

    call me a giant nerd, but you can buy powdered cheese and make your own mac-n-cheese for the tiniest fraction of the cost of a box of kraft.

  14. theWolf says:

    Um, it may have something to do with consumers’ willingness to pay more for the spiral variety. Doesn’t have to be logical, but that’s supply and demand for you.

  15. alicemalice says:

    There’s actually so much less pasta in the spiral box that the directions call for less milk/butter than elbows. I remember this only because when I was a kid, it took like 5 watery batches of spirals before I actually re-read the directions.

  16. Chairman-Meow says:

    I’m surprised that Kraft does not stick a “premium” or “gourmet” on the spiral box before artifically jacking-up the price.

    After all those two words alone are worth a least a 33% markup….aren’t they ?

  17. Hanke says:

    It doesn’t stop at the spirals. Any shape that is NOT an elbow (cartoon characters, shells, dinosaurs) come in the 5.5oz box, not the 7.25oz box. These are generally priced identicaly.

  18. vitonfluorcarbon says:


    Wolf, think you hit the nail on the head. My thoughts exactly.

    It costs more when the noodles are shaped like Spongebob Squarepants, too – this is what my kid will eat, and since he is a picky little dude I will pay extra for Spongebob. Better than him looking all emaciated.

  19. irishbreakfast says:

    More surface area on a spiral, thus more surface to coat with cheese, thus you need fewer noodles, which obviously leads to ummm, a higher price? OK: I go with the “build the spiral factory” explanation.

  20. Ben Popken says:

    @chimmike: Sense of humor much?

  21. timmus says:

    No complaints here… quite frankly the elbow version always tastes the best to me.

  22. Skinny Bone Jones says:

    Spirals are better than plain. “Shapes” are better than spirals. For the best mac ‘n cheese of your life, go to Luka’s Taproom in Oakland: gruyère, parmesan, provolone, aged cheddar & leeks
    w/ green beans.

  23. ribex says:

    Thank you for your ever-so-enlightening quota post.

  24. topgun says:

    It’s the babes on the front of the box.

  25. @topgun: They’re cheetahlicious!

  26. Dacker says:

    You are all overlooking the most obvious reason for much-higher units cost for spirals: The Disney-created “Cheetah Girls” are on the front of the box! And it’s part of a contest too!!

    We all know that pseudo-celebrity endorsements make everything taste/smell/look/feel/drive/wear/perform better, right?

    Someone has to pay for those marketing extras — and you know it’s not coming out of Kraft’s profits…!

  27. theblackdog says:

    You notice that none of the store brands make spirals, but maybe that’s because store brands aren’t as great as Kraft for some reason.

  28. PrettyBitch says:

    Same amount of cheese, fewer noodles = cheesy spiral goodness.

    Kraft can have my dollar for that.

  29. PenguinBlue says:

    Okay, this is simple. There are some children’s celebrities on the more expensive box.



    Greater parent demand for children to shut the hell up


    Greater parent willingness to pay for basically same product packaged differently


    Higher price.

  30. PenguinBlue says:

    This is explained by a simple series of events that takes place every time parent and brat walk down the aisle together:



    Increased parent demand for child to shut the hell up


    Greater willingness to pay for artificial cheese product


    Higher price

  31. PenguinBlue says:

    Sorry for the double-post. And triple-post.

  32. Nick says:

    @helen: Where can you get the cheese powder? I’ve looked for it and could never find it.

  33. MENDOZA!!!!! says:

    Spirals retain cheesey-goodness better than standard noodles. DUH!

  34. JayXJ says:


    The store brands don’t benefit from access to a spiral factory. :D

  35. RandomHookup says:

    It’s licensing. The pasta kings in Sicily who own the rights to fusilli drive a very hard bargain.

  36. Mary says:

    I wonder how they compare space wise. Do the spirals fill up more or less of the box? Sure, the net weight is different, but what about the density? is it different? Maybe spirals are just lighter and thus filling a box with spirals weighs less? I don’t know the answers to these questions.

    All I know is I’ll pay more for it because as somebody else said, spirals are better than elbows, and character shapes are better than spirals. It’s all about what holds the cheese best.

  37. morganlh85 says:

    why do they cost more? Because they’re deliciouser of course. Everyone knows that spirals are WAY better than elbow mac.

  38. warf0x0r says:

    I luv spiral mac, way better than classic noodles. And I have always known there was less in the box, everyone does.

  39. informed112 says:

    uhm. Just look at the feet of shelving the tradtional macaroni noodles take up. It’s obvious they sell more therefore are probably produced more, thus driving the cost down.

  40. Trai_Dep says:

    Guys. GUYS.

    Cost (of goods sold) has nothing to do with price. Demand does. Unless you’re a marketing idiot.

  41. helen says:

    @schwnj: for some reason i can’t post a link. google “powdered cheese.” the one i get is the vermont cheddar from King Arthur Flour – $6.95 for a pound!

  42. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    @helen: Where do YOU buy processed dried cheese? Just curious.

  43. kimsama says:

    @schwnj: OMG me too! I hope you didn’t just mean like grated parm. I would love to by a huge container of the nuclear-orange kraft cheese powder. I would literally go mad with pow(d)er.

  44. kimsama says:

    @helen: Yay! I’m baking you a cake right now for the service you’ve provided humanity. ^_^

  45. jmschn says:

    Obviously the spiral one costs more because there is a game of chance on the box for an “instant win” item!!!

  46. TonyTriple says:

    …so you’re telling me that we are getting screwed on the spirals?

    Someone’s gotta pay for all the Macaroni R+D at Kraft Labs…

  47. theblackdog says:

    @kimsama: Wasn’t there a time when Kraft did sell just packets of the Mac and Cheese powder?

  48. Chicago7 says:

    The REAL question is, where can you get Kraft M&C for 42 cents? Holy Cow!

    I haven’t bought any of this stuff in years, but it was a lot more than 42 cents!

  49. Chicago7 says:

    I think it’s a mistake in pricing. I think they are BOTH 79 cents. You get less with the spirals because it’s more difficult to manufacture, maybe.

  50. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    I miss the old square ‘Noodles & Cheese.’ Now there was some good eatin’ !!
    And a local store brand had little teeny shells and cheese, with better cheese than the Kraft (even the 3 cheese).

  51. KernelPanic says:

    This sounds like an econmy of scale issue and likely some savvy marketing.


  52. GlassBottleLoveAffair says:

    Actually, the picture is a bit misleading b/c they both have Cheetah Girls and the contest on them, it’s just a newer box and not all the warehouses have cycled through the “old” stuff yet.(heck, my store still has the Spider-Man promotion on some of them.) And seriously, where did you find that stuff that cheap! Our normal price on Mac n Cheese is 79cents and the spirals are like 99 or a 1.09. Why are spirals more? Cuz are warehouse charges more for them then the regular stuff.. I’ll have to flag down a Kraft rep sometime and try to get to the bottom of this!

  53. Chicago7 says:

    Here’s how to get a better Mac N Cheese with only a little work.

    Go to Trader Joe’s and buy some Asiago cheese – the Wisconsin stuff for $6.49/lb (YIKES! It was 4.99/lb less than 3 months ago!). Grate that up and cook up some spiral Macaroni (69 cents) – drain the macaroni and put the cheese on – mix it up a little and eat!

  54. SOhp101 says:

    Uh, the obvious answer is economies of scale. They ship crates of the elbow macaroni one while they might ship only a couple boxes of the spiral version. The actual manufacturing process doesn’t cost very much if spread over millions of boxes compared to tens of thousands.

    And it’s not a premium version of their mac and cheese. If you want Kraft’s premium brand, took for their Velveeta.

  55. Quazie says:

    I’ve noticed the price difference for years. Its not just on the spirals, its on any kind and is sometimes more. I’m a college student and I’m not ashamed to say that almost every time I go to purchase my Kraft Mac & Cheese I look longingly at the scooby doo version as I find it to be extremely satisfying to chow down on some of my favorite cartoon characters. The price gets me most of the time, but the fewer ounces per box is what keeps me away. Kraft, give me back my 1.25 ounces of scooby doo goodness. Thanks.

  56. Havok154 says:

    Tastes better due to a full even covering of cheese. With the elbows you get clumps and goops of cheese inside, or no cheese inside at all. Spirals are engineered to become fully and evenly coated in cheesy goodness.

    I still buy the cheaper elbows, because I’m cheap.

  57. crankymediaguy says:

    NASA spent YEARS developing spiral macaroni (it was the project right after Tang) and you bastards want it CHEAP! Gah.

  58. Jesse in Japan says:

    I think that, with pasta, the texture really makes a big difference.

  59. quantum-shaman says:

    “That’s 24% fewer noodles, with a 133% price increase.”

    Exactly. Marketing geniuses get paid handsomely to sit around and dream up shit exactly like this.

  60. G-Dog says:

    “Hidden Vally seasoning mix” spice packs.

    The fat free costs more than the regular. The only difference between the two is, with fat free, the instructions say to add fat free wet ingredients, rather than regular.

  61. Jim Kosmicki says:

    actually, the store brands here in Central NE do have a spiral version — in fact, our local grocery store has a sale this week on store brand boxed Mac and Cheese that includes both regular and spiral for the same price. So it’s a Kraft decision to charge more, even if it is economy of scale (which makes some sense).

    and the shells are usually the best.

    but the real trick to making box mac n cheese taste best is to drain the macaroni from the pot, then add the ingredients for the cheese sauce to the pot and heat to a slow boil while mixing. You’ll see the ingredients combine into a nice thick cheese sauce. then when you add the macaroni back in, it coats even better. if you just dump the cheese sauce ingredients over the pasta, it never really combines properly into a sauce.

  62. killavanilla says:

    Is it wrong to say that I only buy the Mac N Cheese when it is on sale?
    Are there really people out there who think “Oooh, *Spiral* mac and cheese? That’s FANCY!”
    Each box runs around a buck.
    As long as I get a noodle of some kind, I’m good to go.
    F spirals, fun shapes, flinstones, marketing BS aimed at addicting kids to mac n cheese.
    Just make MACARONI and package it with some sort of cheese-like sauce makins’.
    Kids like it.
    End of problem. Save the money on packaging, marketing, dies, production, etc.

  63. swalve says:

    It has been that way since the 80’s at least.

  64. ian937262 says:

    This made me go instantly make a thing of macaroni and cheese. Only to realize no spirals. Put it on the shopping list though.

  65. David Millar says:

    For some reason, the funky cartoon shaped ones that looked like an awkward graffiti stencil made with noodle based shrinky dinks gone horribly awry always tasted the best noodlewise to me. But frankly after adding the cheese mix and the milk and butter, I don’t just go for the elbow noodles – I go for the off brands. One night my roommates and I did a 3 brand and 1 homemade taste test and 1 of the 2 offbrand won hands down.