On Monday, Kraft Foods made a pretty huge announcement: They will be removing preservatives and synthetic food colorings from their notoriously neon Original Macaroni & Cheese product.
Starting next year, the iconic orange sauce will no longer be the result of Yellow Numbers 5 and 6 (which no, do not grow on Yellow 5 or Yellow 6 trees). They plan to recreate the color with a mix of paprika, annatto, and turmeric—a noble but immense undertaking if they want to maintain the similarly iconic taste of powdered cheese.
The news came two years after Kraft announced that it would stop using artificial dyes in three of its kid-geared products, but stopped short of eliminating them from its most popular blue box. The latest changes, according to the company, are meant to "delight consumers with on-trend updates to meet consumers' changing lifestyles and needs."
I mean, sure, fine lose the dyes. But before all this millennial organic paprika mumbo jumbo invaded our radars, there was a time when we loved unearthly orange processed cheese for what it was—for not hiding behind the veil of healthy. How do I know this? Because as a wee kid consumer I watched and, yes, delighted in the commercials every day.
Before the sauce disappears forever, we've rounded up nine iconic Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner commercials, all seeped in orange goo. They’re without a doubt the cheesiest. PUN VERY MUCH INTENDED.
Sure, the cartoony Cheesasaurus Rex more or less defined my advertisement consumption as a 90s child, but back in the 80s, Kraft was all about the essentials. Cheese, that is. These kids were so into the cheese, the even lobbied to have Kraft rename the damn thing.
Come 1991, eating anything other than Kraft brand Mac & Cheese was downright dangerous for children. Think you saved a few cents, mom? Think again—your child is straight up horrified by the idea of off-brand mac and cheese.
And so begins the 90s era of animated Mac & Cheese commercials featuring a then-unknown talent named Cheesasaurus Rex. Who knew that he (she?) would one day become a star?
Ladies and gentleman, we now come to a very exciting moment in the history of Kraft Mac & Cheese commercials. 1993 marks the beginning of the motif that defined a genre of mac & cheese ads: surging torrents of orange. We got pipes spewing cheese sauce, we got cheese sauce lagoons, we got cheese sauce whirlpools. It's like they took a page out of Nickelodeon's green slime book.
The early 90s also embraced TV show partnerships—and by TV shows, we obviously mean cartoons, because what other type of show could match the sauce's vibrant color? The era saw a whole slew of cartoon-themed mac & cheese products, including Rugrats, Peanuts, and Super Mario Bros., among others.
In 1996 Kraft took a break from its usually visually overstimulating commercials and pared things down with this iconic blues-inspired ad. Surely Howlin’ Wolf is up there in cheesy Kraft-sponsored heaven with a single tear rolling down his face.
But alas, we could only take refuge in a soulful ode to a corporation for so long. The cheese floods eventually returned around 1998, and this time, they were in early CGI. About time.
In which animated noodles actually give the greatest commentary on the state of television in 2002, the gravity of which haunts the likes of Slavoj Žižek.
All good things must come to an end—as the new millennium reached double digits, it was time to retire the cartoons and orange rivers and focus on what matters: parents eating all their children’s mac and cheese. (Oh, and if the voiceover at the end of this 2012 gem sounds familiar, it's because it features the smooth pipes of Ted Williams, the formerly homeless Man with the Golden Voice!)
Oh yeah, Vanilla Ice was in a mac & cheese commercial last year and it was weird for everyone.