Monday, December 19, 2011

Annie's Organic vs. Natural Macaroni and Cheese

I love what Annie's Homegrown provides for our family, trust what they produce, and appreciate that they champion healthier foods and environmental protection.

When I went to buy more Annie's Macaroni & Cheese I noticed two things:  A changed exterior appearance and that it had the Organic Valley logo on it.  So, I thought, what does this mean?

After some quick research, I discovered that there hasn't been a change but that Annie's produces two different versions:  The natural version I had been purchasing at our local grocery store (1 box for $1.79) and Amazon, and the organic version I picked up at Costco (15 boxes for $14.79).

So what's the difference?  The identical photo on the outside of the box showed the organic version having a darker orange color that I thought was just an issue with the printer, but after dumping both cheese packets side-by-side in the bowl (pictured), it really is a darker cheese powder.

Next I looked at the weight and both boxes offer 6 ounces of food.  Then I looked at the ingredient list where I did notice some minor differences (other than being organic) that I have highlighted:

  • Organic Version: ORGANIC WHEAT SHELL PASTA, ORGANIC VALLEY ® ORGANIC CHEDDAR CHEESE (ORGANIC CULTURED PASTEURIZED MILK, SALT, NON-ANIMAL ENZYMES), ORGANIC WHEY, SALT, NATURAL SODIUM PHOSPHATE, ORGANIC ANNATTO EXTRACT FOR COLOR.
  • Natural Version: ORGANIC SEMOLINA PASTA SHELLS FROM DURUM WHEAT, CHEDDAR CHEESE (CULTURED PASTEURIZED MILK, SALT, NON-ANIMAL ENZYMES), WHEY, BUTTERMILK, CREAM, SALT, NATURAL SODIUM PHOSPHATE, ANNATTO EXTRACT AND BETA CAROTENE FOR NATURAL COLOR.

Nutritionally, there are a few small adjustments in protein and sodium and a couple of other things, but nothing substantial enough to warrant attention.


The only real difference between the organic and natural products is that the all organic version offers organic cheese and the natural one does not.


I did like the overall appearance of the organic version best, but we've used the natural version for a couple of years with never a thought about color.  If your only option is the natural mac and cheese, I would be confident with that choice, but given that Costco provides us an almost 50% price reduction over the grocery store for an all organic version, that is what our family will choose.


P.S.  A longer blog on Annie's will be forthcoming.  As a quick note of interest, unlike other companies who pick a random name to market their product (see more here), Annie really exists!  Meet her in this video.

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