That’s no ordinary orange glop, that’s SpongeBob!

Photo by JeepersMedia (Mike Mozart) via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

I don’t find SpongeBob’s noodle very compelling, but check out Gary and Patrick! Photo by JeepersMedia (Mike Mozart) via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Why do kids like Kraft macaroni and “cheese”? For one thing, it satisfies the human craving for salt. For another thing, advertising tells them that they “love it”. Finally, once you get sick of the usual noodles, you can—perhaps after some extended whining to the ‘rents in the grocery store—upgrade to tie-in shapes from heavily marketed franchises.

Thanks to Smithsonian, I just discovered this piece from Barry Newman last spring in the Wall Street Journal that profiles Kraft noodle designer Guillermo Haro:

In 22 years at Kraft, Mr. Haro … has extruded pasta into more than 2,000 shapes; 280 have gone on sale in blue boxes of Macaroni and Cheese, with a bag of orange cheesy stuff.

Aside from licensed homages to Bugs Bunny, Scooby-Doo and the rest—and the donkeys and elephants handed out at party conventions—his original works have been awarded 29 patents, among them: High-rise-building shaped pasta, locomotive-shaped pasta, dinosaur-shaped pasta, spider-shaped pasta, and United States of America-shaped pasta.

It may horrify those who summer in Tuscany, but U.S. dry-pasta consumption—a billion pounds a year—is equaled by “dry dinners” for the busy and the budget-minded, like boxed mac-and-cheese. Kraft got into the game in 1937, and sells a million mac-and-cheese boxes a day. But to stay in front, it must pull in young new eaters, and that means continually refreshing its cartoon-pasta output.

Head here for the full story, and check out the Smithsonian post to see some images from a macaroni-themed Google Patent Search.

For grownups craving more sophisticated pasta architecture, have a look at these pages that feature dozens of Italian pasta varieties. Then, check out The Geometry of Pasta by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy (trailer below) and Pasta by Design (see here too) by George L. Legendre and Stefano Grazini.

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One comment

  1. Little Sis

    One of our local organic chains (MOM’s) has decided to stop carrying products that are marketed to children. While they already didn’t carry most of the character mac n cheese, I am impressed with the decision to stop carrying ALL products that use characters to engage children. On another note, I don’t think it’s just marketing that makes them like mac n cheese. My daughter who doesn’t watch TV and has never had Kraft (but has had healthier boxed versions and my own homemade version) has dubbed her beloved pasta with goo the best food ever.

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