Annie's Mac & Cheese and Smartfood Popcorn Have More in Common Than You Think

Did you know both brands were founded by the same person?

A box of Annie's Shells & Real Aged Cheddar next to a bag of Smartfood White Cheddar Popcorn
Photo: Alamy/Allrecipes

Annie's Homegrown is a brand of snacks and most notably, boxed macaroni and cheese that is a familiar staple in many homes. You have probably seen their bright, pastel-colored boxes on grocery store shelves with a cute bunny in the logo. Annie Withey started this eponymous business in 1989 with its marquee product, mac and cheese. The brand was founded on the basis of being socially conscious and sustainable. Over the years Annie's has grown tremendously and has launched other products, including breakfast cereals, baking products, and condiments. This expansion, in part, is due to its acquisition by General Mills in 2014.

However, this is not the first time Annie Withey ventured into the food business. Just five years prior, she and her then-husband started Smartfood, the Cheddar popcorn brand. After selling Smartfood to Frito-Lay in 1989, Withey focused her time and attention on mac and cheese. It all makes sense that during this time, the powder used for the popcorn was incorporated into the mac and cheese recipe. Using the leftover powder to make mac and cheese is resourceful and right on brand. What else would the numerous tubs of powdered cheese be used for?

A Closer Look at the Ingredients

Annie's Shells & White Cheddar Mac & Cheese

  • Organic Pasta
  • Dried Cheddar Cheese (cultured pasteurized milk, salt, non-animal enzymes),
  • Whey
  • Butter (pasteurized cream, salt),
  • Nonfat Milk
  • Salt
  • Sodium Phosphate
  • Silicon Dioxide (for anticaking).

Smartfood White Cheddar Popcorn

  • Popcorn
  • Vegetable Oil (corn, canola, and/or sunflower oil),
  • Cheddar Cheese (milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes)
  • Whey
  • Buttermilk
  • Salt
  • Natural Flavor

If you take a look at the ingredients for Smartfood Popcorn and Annie's Shells & White Cheddar Mac & Cheese variety, you may question if your eyes are deceiving you. With the exception of the first, main ingredients for the mac and cheese and popcorn — wheat pasta versus popcorn kernels and oil respectively — the rest looks almost identical. It can be quite surprising since two major food companies now own the two different brands. You would think major changes have been made to set themselves apart from each other but as they say: if it ain't broke don't fix it (and what's better than powdered cheese?). Whatever the case, the two brands still hold onto Withey's ingenuity.

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