Packaging Vs. Reality: Kraft Macaroni And Cheese Cups

Jay is smart, and knows that packaged food never quite turns out the way it looks on the box. It’s not physically possible. But he was surprised, when cooking a pre-packaged cup of Kraft macaroni and cheese from Costco, that the quantity of food-like substance in the cup didn’t really measure up to what was shown on the box. Is he overreacting, or is this really an unrealistic portrayal of the food product within?

We picked up this box of Kraft “cheesy and easy” Macaroni and Cheese cups at Costco. The box art shows a cup that is nearly filled to the brim with cheesy goodness. The art is believable, there is nothing on the box to suggest that this portion is unrealistic. There is no explicit fine print stating that the art is just art, there is no implicit cue that the cups are impossible to fill up to that level. The consumer should have no reason to expect the product would be otherwise.

I cooked it and realized the actual product is roughly 50% of what’s on the box. Attached are the pictures before and after cooking, using a BIC pencil end (where the entire black eraser end is only .50 inch) to show the height level of the uncooked pasta. Just for giggles after cooking I positioned the cup and angled it so it resembles what’s on the box, only it looks nothing like what’s on the box. Egads! Maybe that’s why they neglected to show consumers the truth? Who would buy this unless Kraft could sucker them with an absurdly inflated product?


There was some message on the cup wrapper to the effect that the macaroni pieces on the rim of the wrapper are blown up but that’s irrelevant unless they’re saying you have to buy it first, open it to read the message only visible clearly on the cups, then make the mental leap that inflated pieces of pasta on one piece of art implies that they inflated the pasta on another piece of art. Maybe they even want you to know how much a piece of uncooked macaroni weighs and do the math at Costco to know there can’t possibly be that much macaroni in the box. Yeah, sure or maybe they can just tell the truth which “might” be easier.

To rule out cooking conditions I tested different cooking times believing there was a possible microwave power factor influencing this. The results were the same and with that amount of pasta, blaming it on cooking conditions is not plausible. Then I thought maybe they couldn’t put that much in there because it would be impossible to stir but the roughly half inch space they show on the box should be enough. That excuse doesn’t justify lying to consumers anyway, if they did this to make it easier to stir they should show the true size on the box. Nothing justifies adding this much plastic waste and lying about it. Adding that much plastic you don’t need per cup compared to the actual food in there and making these cups so small is just so wasteful.

Maybe Kraft made that much in one cup using a specially tuned microwave but I doubt it based on my tests. The average consumer probably isn’t going to achieve those conditions anyway, losing half of what’s shown on the box due to conditions would be absurd. This is fraud at worst, disingenuous at best. Being a monolithic company they probably have some sly legalese to hide behind. Look, I’m not the kind of person to argue if the food varies by some small percentage but this is roughly 50% and that’s a LOT to lose.

If my memory of Easy Mac physics is correct, it would be impossible for the cooked pasta to reach that level without boiling over while microwaving, so the cup can’t be that full. Which might still make it an unfair marketing image, but for a good reason.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Kraft Dinner is a pretty unrealistic representation of food in general…

    Just saying.

  2. kobresia says:

    Mmmm, Kraft Dinner.

  3. Cat says:

    There is NO “cheesy goodness” to be found in Kraft Macaroni and “Cheeze”, because there is no cheese to be found in Kraft Macaroni and “Cheese”.

    whey (milk protein), milk protein concentrate, milk, milk fat, cheese culture, salt, sodium tripolyphosphate, sodium phosphate, calcium phosphate, yellow 5 , yellow 6, citric acid, lactic acid, and enzymes.

    • mbz32190 says:

      Not directly, but I’m pretty sure the cheese culture (enzyme) combined with the milk ingredients makes something that is definable as cheese.

      • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

        Not according to the Canadian Dairy Commission.

        You don’t fuck with cow-farmers in this country, son. :c

      • Cat says:

        Not even close. See, there’s a reason you can’t buy “Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner” in Canada, but you can buy “Kraft Dinner”, even though they are exactly the same thing.

        Because there’s no cheese in it.

        Putting all the ingredients for a human being into a jar doesn’t result in a human being.

        • Worstdaysinceyesterday says:

          That’s what you think mwhahaha!
          *goes down the basement lab to check on my pretty experiments*

        • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

          Then how do you explain Romney?

        • tofupuppy says:

          Oh gee, thank you for finally explaining to me why my (Canadian-born) grandmother has always called this “Kraft Dinner.” After 3+ decades, the mystery has been solved.

        • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

          DId you just make that up? I just Googled it and pretty much every source said that Kraft Dinner was the original name for the product and it stuck in Canada as a regional thing. I could not find any mention of it having to do with not having cheese in it. If you Google a photo of the box, at the bottom of the box it does indeed say macaroni and cheese very plainly. Some of the French Canadian boxes say fromage in giant letters on them, which means cheese. Here is the link to a giant photo of the box:

          Also, it does contain cheese ingredients, but is more akin to pasteurized processed cheese food, as it is mixed with a dairy product (whey and milk) than straight up cheese. It is indeed the cheese culture, whey, milk protein etc.. that make it a cheese product. And, while you cannot put ingredients in a jar to make a human, we aren’t talking humans here, we are talking food. I can put flour, water, egg, sugar, and other ingredients together to make a cake, which doesn’t resemble the bowl of original ingredients very much. A recipe would be a far more appropriate analogy in this case, as you can indeed mix cheese culture and milk products to make processed cheese products (like American cheese.)

  4. dogmaticman says:

    Fake product representation for fake cheese. Not surprising but irritating all the same.

  5. LJKelley says:

    False advertising. It is one thing for products to settle during shipment and to use air as a cushion for chips, cereals, etc… that may get crushed otherwise during shipment. But atleast I can fill a bowl full of cereal and make it look somewhat like what is displayed on the packaging.

    Obvioulys physics would never let pasta boil properly in a full bowl, so if you want a full bowl you will need to make it in a pot and then fill your bowl. But that shouldn’t be up to the average consumer to know. Kraft needs to state outside on the box that the art is simulated and that each bowl contains x ounces of ‘cheesy’ pasta.

    Why anyone would buy this though is beyond me. It tastes bad, its unhealthy, etc… If you want Mac and Cheese, make your own from scratch. Its not hard. Its barely harder than making this. If you want something to go, make it and reheat.

    • Cat says:

      Just don’t make it with Velveeta and call it Macaroni and Cheese. Just don’t.

      • webweazel says:

        Try this one from my recipe book:

        Philly Mac & Cheese

        Finally, from stylish shoes to sensational food—our last guest was southern-inspired chef Delilah Winder, who came straight from Philadelphia—and she may just replace the cheese-steak as the official food of Philly with her world-famous macaroni and cheese. Get a pen and paper and give your diet a rest! Here is how to make the greatest, gooiest, most belt-busting macaroni and cheese ever:

        2 pounds elbow macaroni
        12 eggs
        1 cup cubed Velveeta cheese
        1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, melted
        6 cups half-and-half, divided
        4 cups grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese
        2 cups grated extra sharp white cheddar cheese
        1-1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
        1 cup grated Asiago cheese
        1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
        1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
        1 cup grated Muenster cheese
        1/8 tsp. salt
        1 tbsp. black pepper

        Preheat the oven to 325°. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until still slightly al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to keep warm.

        Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until frothy. Combine the Velveeta, butter, and two cups of the half-and-half in a large bowl.

        Add the warm macaroni, tossing until the cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth.

        Add the remaining half-and-half, three cups of the sharp yellow cheddar cheese, the remaining grated cheeses, and salt and pepper, tossing until completely combined.

        Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13-inch casserole or baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes.

        Sprinkle with the remaining one cup of sharp yellow cheddar cheese and bake until golden brown on top, about 30 minutes more. Serve hot.

        (Serves 12 to 16)

    • dangermike says:

      I’ll admit straight up the OP’s rant got TL;DR’ed. So if this is a repetition of something said earlier, I apologize.

      the simple fact of the matter is, if the bowls were to be filled to the level shown on the box, Kraft would be getting hit by several lawsuits each year where somebody overheated the water in the microwave, spilled it on themselves, and received horrendous burns. It would be irresponsible to provide the product in that condition. It appears as though the weights are clearly listed on both the box and the individual cups. As long as their products are true to those weights, they could probably avoid any litigation or regulatory heat. The pictures might be a bit shady, but are not necessarily a misrepresentation. If you were to take the product in its cooked state, refrigerate (or freeze it) on its side, then photograph it from the same angle appearing on the box, it is likely possible to reproduce that image with the product as sold.

      The most pertinent comment on the topic was Mr. Fixit’s. It is quick and easy to make a cheesy bechamel sauce and trivial to boil pasta while doing so. It will not come together as quickly as microwaving these failure bowls of sadness we’re discussing, but it will not take significantly longer than the box’o’toxic the cup’s branding was built on. For the knowledge of what you’re putting into your body and the vastly superior taste of it, the extra effort in producing the real stuff is well worthwhile.

  6. RavenWarrior says:

    Fee fi fo fum… I smell Kraft Dinner.

  7. I just blue myself says:

    Mmm. Easy-mac is my guilty pleasure. Just seeing the teaser picture made my mouth water :(

  8. pop top says:

    Do you get the same number of ounces of product that is listed on the package? If so then there’s no false advertising. If making your product look good was illegal, then we wouldn’t have half the commercials on TV.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      That’s what I was going to say, Squinko. If the packaging had no weight listed I would think the depiction of the volume could be considered deceptive, but the weight is a completely objective measure, so if they’re meeting that, I think the picture is given more artistic license.

      • Cat says:

        If the package says “Serving Suggestion” on the photo, I agree.

        Obviously, their suggestion is to make 2 cups, and put it all in one cup.

    • dks64 says:

      This is exactly what I was going to post. Read the nutritional facts, learn the serving size. If the cup is about 12 ounces and the nutritional fact says there are 8 oz of Mac and cheese per cup, it’s a sign it’s not full to the brim in reality.

  9. Wes_Sabi says:

    Did you not know what Kraft macaroni and cheese looked like before you bought this because what you made looks exactly like it should. Also, net weight is on every cup. The net weight of a regular box of mac & cheese is 7.25 oz.

  10. Rick Sphinx says:

    They must use the same photographers that Swimming Pool companies use. Always shows a pool with lots of people in the water, then when you get it, 1 person can fit in the water 1/2 way! They must use people who are even smaller the “Little People”. Anyway, Kraft M&C is awful. Velveeta is much better tasting.

  11. DariusC says:

    I have had those before, that is exactly what I received as well. The noodles were small, thin and had a horrible texture. Wasn’t a fan of the taste, either. I just stopped buying it. As far as packaging vs reality, I think we all know they set the lighting and angles just right to glorify their product.

  12. dulcinea47 says:

    I think this person maybe overanalyzed the situation, but I will say that I’ve noticed some instances where the “grocery shrink ray” has shrunk the amount of food, but the packaging is huge in comparison. I’m not just talking about chips & cereal settling during transport, either.

  13. giax says:

    Thatswhy the package says “serving suggestion”.

  14. scoutermac says:

    It’s not right but I’m not surprised.

  15. Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

    Rather have an RME !

    • Round-Eye §ñ‰∫∫„ÅØ„Ç≥„É≥„Çπ„Éû„É™„ÉÉ„Çπ„Éà„ÅåÂ•Ω„Åç„Åß„Åô„ÄÇ says:

      You mean MRE – Meal Ready to Eat?

  16. smashedpotats says:

    misleading image yes, but if the container was reduced in size.. or more product was added the OP would be complaining about the spillover that occurred when the water boiled over the container.

    brought me back from super lurker status on this non article consumerist…

    • Kuchen says:

      Exactly. Did he not watch it in the microwave as it was cooking? These are packaged so that they can be cooked in the container they come in, and for boiling water, that container needs to be big enough so it doesn’t spill over the side during cooking.

  17. winstonthorne says:

    “Fee Fi Fo Fum: I smell Kraft Dinner!” – Giant Scott, from South park

  18. BlueHighlighterNextToACoozie says:

    I’ve never encountered an “add water and microwave product” that was filled to the top. This would surely lead to many scalding cases. Does the box say serving suggestion? Perhaps what they are showing is two cups made into one. This actually would make sense for Kraft to make the cup big enough to prepare two servings at once using only one cup, would be easier and more convienient than nuking two seperate cups. The one time I bought easy mac that did not come with cups I remember seeing cooking instructions for making two packs at once, I bet the box gives such directions and Jay left them out to build his case.

    But come on what did he pay like 75 cents for almost half a pound of food and was so upset he broke out the bic pencil, measured the eraser, conducted lab tests and after still not being pleased drafted an essay about the subject??? I really hope he was submitting this for some school project and figured he would send to Consumerist as well. Geez stay away from the Michelina frozen meals for a dollar my friend, they may just send you over the edge!

  19. tbax929 says:

    Having grown up with a mother who made the best damn baked mac in the world, I have never been able to eat Kraft mac and cheese, or any of those other pre-packaged ones. Gross.

  20. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    You need that room to boil the pasta in the bowl. You couldn’t have it filled to the top after cooking, because during cooking it would overflow.

  21. reybo says:

    People who buy packaged factory food from mass producers with a LCD target market can’t really complain just because they suddenly noticed ONE of the ways they were taken. Look at the ingredients; look at the nutrition; look at the calories and sodium. THEN bitch.

  22. Cyfun says:

    Not happy? Return it to Costco for a refund. The beauty of shopping with Costco.

  23. lelliott74 says:

    Really!? The consumer is surprised by this???

    I will play the role of Devil’s Advocate here and just mention that the product on the package looks physically smaller than the actual container he physically has. Perhaps they used a shrunken version of the same container to take the photo and then provided the consumer with a larger cup in order to avoid the spill over in the microwave as mentioned above!

    Clearly Kraft has done this all for the benefit of the consumer who not only has very discerning taste in food but also cares greatly about the cleanliness of their gourmet appliances and kitchen. Kudos to you Kraft…Kudos!!! (*/sarcasm in the extreme)

  24. Kuri says:

    Ummm, no shit?

    Still tastes good to me though.

  25. DrPizza says:

    Why would someone complain about this?

    I’d wager that if the thing was full, that the negative health effects would be GREATER than the negative health effects of smoking a cigarette. That stuff is horrible for you (and tastes like crap.)

  26. RokMartian says:

    This is the most important thing I have read today.

  27. ned4spd8874 says:

    I miss their frozen mac & cheese dinner. They haven’t sold it for about 15 years now but I still stand firm that it’s one of the best mac & cheese meals I’ve ever had.

  28. mingtae says:

    Complaining about picture size vs reality? Have you not seen a McDonald’s commercial? Where do they make those Big Macs that require TWO HANDS to hold?

  29. Cream Of Meat says:

    If I Had a million dollars.
    We wouldn’t have to eat Kraft Dinner.
    (But we would eat Kraft Dinner. Of course we would, we’d just eat more.
    And buy really expensive ketchup with it.
    That’s right, all the fanciest… Dijon Ketchup. Mmmmmm.)

  30. El-Brucio says:

    If I worked for Kraft’s marketing division I would be having multiple orgasms over the comments here.

    The apathy and disdain for this consumer’s complaint is positively delicious.

  31. stuntman-james says:

    um…it’s fucking Kraft Mac and Cheese not Filet Mignon. Get a life and a fucking clue.

  32. Peter V says:

    It’s true, I have one my cabinet (I didn’t like it, so I never finished the 6-pack… also: recalls due to metal wires, not worth driving 3 miles and an argument for $3)

  33. Trojan69 says:

    Perhaps this is an example of product made for the heavy discounters like WalMart and Costco that has less to it than what one might find in traditional stores.

  34. tooluser says:

    You bought it at Costco. Take it back for a refund. Including the used cup(s).

  35. Captain Sassypants says:

    An important point to consider is that Kraft Easy Mac is specifically designed to be a single-serving food item. Portion control is an incredibly important part of maintaining a healthy weight; it sounds to me like the OP is irritated about not getting multiple servings in one container.

  36. tape says:

    the submitter added unneccesary words to the question “who would buy this?”

  37. nocturnaljames says:

    I have no sympathy for anyone who chose to buy this crap in the first place. Shred some real cheese over some pasta, and you will wonder how you ever ate that Kraft crap.

  38. Jeff asks: "WTF could you possibly have been thinking? says:

    This crap goes on sale at my local Kroger at 10 for $10 and I see people gobbling it up. I can’t understand why when a regular box is also 10 for $10.
    That strange “white powder” present in the dry macaroni before you cook it. The package says something to the effect of “The white powder is necessary for the cheese sauce to come out right” or something. Ewww….
    While I’m at it….
    Warm Delights: Who the hell pays $3.19 for 3 tablespoons of cake mix and a tablespoon of frosting? People who buy this crap. Oh there good; I’ve bought them on sale or with a coupon.
    But, seriously. One serving of microwave rubber cake is worth 3 bucks to some people?
    And finally, yes, it is still a Kraft Dinner to me (old fart). Has been for decades.