For National Mac and Cheese Day, we’re highlighting a local company whose name is synonymous with cheese—Kraft. Founded in 1903 by James L. Kraft, it started as a cheese-delivery business in Chicago, and within a few years, Kraft was producing cheese as well. By 1976, Kraft Inc. had about $5 billion in annual sales with nearly 50,000 employees around the world, including about 3,000 in the Chicago area. Starting in 2011, the company, then known as Kraft Foods, split into two publicly traded companies. The first, a snack food company called Mondelēz International, became the legal successor of the old Kraft Foods and recently moved from suburban Deerfield, Illinois, to Chicago. The second was the Chicago-based Kraft Foods Group grocery company, which later merged with Heinz to become the Kraft Heinz Company. In 2019, Mondelēz International had net revenues of approximately $26 billion, while Kraft Heinz earned about $25 billion in net sales.
One of its most popular products, Kraft macaroni and cheese was introduced in 1937. At just nineteen cents a box and easily prepared, the prepackaged product was a hit during the Great Depression and into World War II as rationing took place and working women had limited time at home. This advertisement from 1961 promotes Kraft’s new “company-best” Deluxe Dinner, which comes with prepared cheese sauce instead of the standard powder form.
Learn more about the history of food processing in Chicago in the Encyclopedia of Chicago. Read more.
Advertisement for Kraft Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese, 1961. Published in McCall’s. CHM, ICHi-040410
The Museum’s North & Clark Café is ready to welcome you again! A local gathering spot for both CHM visitors and neighborhood patrons alike, you can now enjoy our fresh-made menu offerings indoors, on the patio, or to go. We’re serving up Chicago-style hot dogs, all-day breakfast + coffee, and some of the best burgers in town! See the menus.