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Leon Kaye headshot

As Chaos Leaves Consumers Craving Comfort Food, One Brand Scores a Sustainable Makeover

Kraft Heinz says it has developed a recyclable, fiber-based cup to make one of its comfort food classics a more responsible option.
By Leon Kaye
Comfort Food

Let’s face it, no matter where your sympathies may lie over what’s been going on in the nation’s capital, we’re all craving comfort food. Whether you were infuriated over the insurrection or believe free speech is under attack, we all crave carbs to curb the angst.

Even before last week’s violence, the months-long pandemic has given a lift to simple, carb-heavy pleasures. Washingtonians now apparently have a thing for Philly cheesesteaks. Chicago restaurants capitalized on pre-election stress. California’s Central Valley has witnessed residents going for even more timeless Mexican favorites like pozole and cocidoAnd at the beginning of the pandemic, food processing companies couldn’t make mac and cheese fast enough.

Now the folks behind a comfort food icon, Kraft Mac & Cheese, are striving to make the product a little less guilt-inducing.

Kraft Heinz says this is the first-ever recyclable fiber-based microwavable cup
Kraft Heinz says this is the first-ever recyclable fiber-based microwavable cup (Image credit: Kraft Heinz via Business Wire)

No, we’re not talking about replacing that gooey, neon-hued cheese — that’s always going to be around. Face it: Half of us love it. The other half feign horror at the ingredients, but while they profess to avoid the stuff, many indulge when no one’s looking. If you don’t have a box stashed in your cupboard, you’re not living.

Here’s what’s changing: For those of us who can’t even bother to boil some water and want even faster instant gratification, Kraft also offers a microwavable version that's ready in less than five minutes. Sales of those microwavable cups have been on the upswing, which makes sense: If you have yet another Zoom call, you want something fast to get you through that next hour-long virtual slog.

But here’s the sticky, gooey situation: Recycling systems across the U.S., and around the world, have been torn apart as plastic trash exports have screeched to a halt and single-use plastics keep piling up. Even if your local garbage pickup service accepts plastic, there’s another problem: Many recyclers won’t take plastic items that still have paper or plastic labels affixed to them.

So, Kraft Heinz says it’s come up with an answer: It’s testing out a recyclable, fiber-based cup (shown above). Instead of a resin-or paper-based label, branding and barcodes will be directly printed on the cups. The company says the goal is to develop a cup that is both recyclable and able to break down at industrial-scale composting sites. If all goes to plan, we may see these cups of comfort food goodness in stores by the end of this year.

Image credit: Hermes Rivera/Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye