PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay brand is introducing Cheetos Mac ‘n Cheese flavored with the cheesy orange seasoning found on the popular snack, the company said in a statement. The product comes in three flavors: Bold & Cheesy, Flamin’ Hot and Cheesy Jalapeno.
The beverage and food giant said Cheetos Mac ‘n Cheese is the newest innovation from both divisions of PepsiCo Foods North America — Frito-Lay North America, which makes chips, and Quaker Foods North America, which manages the Pasta Roni brand.
The product will be sold starting Aug. 8 at Walmart stores and online in single box and cup formats. Frito-Lay expects it to be available at retailers nationwide in 2021.
The introduction of Cheetos Mac ‘n Cheese comes as consumers not only spend more time at home but gravitate toward brands and products they are familiar with. While Frito-Lay is best known for its Doritos, Fritos and Sun Chips, using the orange-dusted powder on macaroni and cheese or other products is a natural step for the food maker. The PepsiCo division said consumers are increasingly using Cheetos in preparing their own foods at home or in restaurants.
Even though PepsiCo’s portfolio includes sodas, teas and waters to go along with its snack offerings, it has brands in other product categories that highlight its ability to tap into its expertise to sell items that may be out of its core, including Life and Cap’n Crunch cereals and Rice-A-Roni. The move into macaroni and cheese, especially by tapping into the existing popularity of Cheetos, gives the product immediate familiarity with consumers and makes it a must-have for people who are fans of the brand. Cheetos is the most popular cheese snack brand in the U.S., posting sales of more than $1 billion in 2017, according to data from Statista.
For Frito-Lay, the brand is using a common practice in the food industry by taking an existing brand and moving it out of one aisle of the store into another — in this case going from snacks to pasta. Yuengling, America’s oldest brewery, teamed up with chocolate icon Hershey to create a limited-edition Chocolate Porter — the first-ever collaboration between the Pennsylvania companies that are located roughly 50 miles apart. Dunkin’ has rolled out coffee-flavored Pop-Tarts, and General Mills created a Girl Scouts cookie-inspired cereal.
Frito-Lay’s new offering isn’t all that radical because the cheesy dust is simply being incorporated from a chip into a boxed pasta. However, by selling the Cheetos brand in more parts of the store, Frito-Lay is not only able to generate increased sales but expand the number of touch points where consumers see the product.
Even with home consumption of macaroni and cheese on the rise as consumers flock to popular brands, the category has long been dominated by Kraft Heinz’s Mac & Cheese and newer offerings like General Mills’ Annie’s brand. Kraft Heinz recently started running a campaign to position its classic blue box dinner as a breakfast item during quarantine.
PepsiCo has the innovation, marketing, supply chain and retailer partnerships — as well as name recognition — to increase its chances of success with Cheetos Mac ‘n Cheese, but it could be a tough challenge unseating the market leaders.