stunts

How the Kraft Mac and Cheese Ice Cream Won

We never stood a chance against this. Photo: Kraft

On Tuesday, July 13, 2021, Brooklyn artisanal ice-cream maker Van Leeuwen — famous for flavors like “Earl Grey” and “Sicilian Pistachio” — announced its newest variety: Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, developed in collaboration with the boxed-noodle masters at Kraft Heinz. The news shook America. What is food, anyway, we wondered. What is ice cream? What are noodles? What are small pouches of dehydrated cheese?

The stunt was the world’s most blatant attention grab, the kind of what-the-fuck-is-this food at which Taco Bell used to excel. But there are no Doritos here. Only mac. And cheese. And ice cream. And it worked. It worked almost too well. How? Why? We have answers to all of your most pressing questions:

So it’s ice cream that tastes like mac and cheese? Why?
Kraft enlisted Van Leeuwen to make an ice cream that captures the mac and cheese experience. Like other Van Leeuwen ice creams, the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese flavor contains cream, milk, cane sugar, and egg yolks. Unlike other Van Leeuwen ice creams, though, which may go on to list ingredients like “lemon zest” and “geranium water,” Kraft Macaroni and Cheese™ ice cream contains real “Kraft cheese sauce mix.”

Okay? But you didn’t answer my question: Why?
There are two explanations. One is that it is not intended to really be sold, only to be available for a discrete period of time so that articles will be written about it, such as this one, giving media exposure to both “brands.” In this case, that discrete period starts today, July 14, which is “National Mac and Cheese Day,” a holiday often overlooked by popular media as well as the entire human population.

The other reason for this product’s existence is obvious: “We know that there is nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than ice cream,” explains the senior associate brand manager for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. “That is why we wanted to combine two of the most iconic comfort foods to create an ice cream with the unforgettable flavor of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese we all grew up with.”

I do love iconic comfort foods! So is this combination gross or good?
While we cannot personally attest to its merits, on account of how nobody offered to send us any, by all accounts: Yes, this ice cream tastes good.

“This unhinged mash-up is actually delicious,” reports Amy McCarthy at Eater, describing the flavor as “buttery,” “only slightly cheesy,” and “lightly funky,” making it “more complex than the classic blue-box dinner.” It will be confusing, but you’ll like it, she says, noting that really, it’s not so surprising, given that ice cream and mac already use similar ingredients (milk, cream, sometimes sugar). “Salty-sweet is an unbeatable flavor combination,” she concludes begrudgingly, “and that’s exactly what’s going on here.” At the Takeout, Marnie Shure and Lillian Stone came to the same reluctant conclusion, declaring it “not off-putting,” “like cheesecake,” and “just consistently nice.”

Can I eat some?
As of today, National Macaroni and Cheese Day, you can order it on Van Leeuwen’s website for $12 per pint, although the website is down as of this writing, presumably due to overwhelming enthusiasm. It will also be available at Van Leeuwen scoop shops, and — today only — available for free until 6 p.m. at an ice-cream truck in Union Square.

Will there be more weird flavors like this?
This brings us back to the headline: This ice cream has won. The product is just weird enough to capture the attention of writers across the internet, so it has been widely successful as a PR stunt. It is also, almost against all possible odds, tasty, meaning it is successful as an ice cream, too. So, yes, it’s safe to say that this will inspire others to create even more weirdo foods that we can all talk about on the internet.

How the Kraft Mac and Cheese Ice Cream Won