How Annie’s mac and cheese went from box to bagel
What happens when you think outside the box of Annie’s Macaroni & Cheese?
You get the Mac & Cheese Bagel at Einstein Bros. Bagels locations all across the U.S.
Topped with Annie’s Macaroni & Cheese, the bagel is available for a limited time this summer at more than 700 Einstein Bros. Bagels locations.
The journey – from box to bagel – began about a year and a half ago when General Mills decided to recreate Annie’s Classic Mild Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese into a pouch version for foodservice use, providing chefs back-of-house simplicity.
Despite the popularity of macaroni and cheese in restaurants, the foodservice market lacked a product with a thick sauce and al dente noodle like Annie’s.
Brian Sadowski, a leader on the research and development team that created the pouch, explains, “You start off with the classic blue box product Annie’s has, and that’s your gold standard. You try to figure out how you can match that. You break it down by sauce, pasta, color, taste, texture – all those different components – and you kind of work backwards.”
The Annie’s brand team was excited that their macaroni and cheese, usually only sold in grocery stores, would be available to families when they ate out.
Once perfected, Jim Vaughan, a senior national account executive at General Mills, met with the folks at Einstein Bros. Bagels and pitched the pouch as a kids’ meal option.
“Once we met with Einstein’s culinary team, their creative juices just started to flow,” he says. “They wondered out loud, ‘What would it taste like if we put the macaroni and cheese on a bagel?’ From there, they experimented further with it.”
The culinary team had already tried a few different macaroni and cheese products before Annie’s.
“We really liked the [Annie’s] product. It had a great mac and cheese color, and the noodles were elbows,” says DJ Lonergan, corporate executive chef at Einstein Bros. Bagels. “We just mix it with some cheese at the store, and it works really well.”
After creating the Mac & Cheese Bagel, they invented two sandwiches with it – one for lunch and one for breakfast. Both are on the menu through August.
“The Mac & Cheese Bagel is an especially fun and tasty way for us to connect with consumers,” says Christina McCalla, marketing manager at Annie’s. “It’s a great example of taking the Annie’s Macaroni & Cheese people already love and creating a totally new way of enjoying it.”
Sadowski adds, “It’s a cool, novel way to use mac and cheese. I never expected in a million years for it to play out this way, but I’m really excited it has.”
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