The Vintage Canned Mac And Cheese We'll Never See Again

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These days, one of the most convenient ways to prepare macaroni and cheese at home is by using the kind that comes in a blue box. You don't have to shred any cheese or make a roux, you just dump the contents of the included packet into the cooked pasta. Back when the Franco-American brand was still around, it had a canned product that also offered a shortcut to enjoying the classic dish.

Franco-American was founded in 1886, and for several decades, one of the products it sold was "macaroni with cheese sauce," a canned pasta advertised in the 1950s as costing approximately nine cents per serving. The canned macaroni's main selling point was  that it was made with "[t]he same sort of ingredients you would select," including "genuine" cheddar cheese, and butter and milk  "fresh from the farm." To prepare a meal resembling a fully homemade baked mac and cheese casserole, the ad suggested, all you had to do was empty the can of macaroni and cheese into a baking dish, cover it with buttered breadcrumbs, and stick it in the oven to bake for about 20 minutes. 

Although there was a dedicated market for Franco-American's canned mac and cheese for many years, the product was eventually discontinued.

Why was Franco-American canned mac and cheese discontinued?

Franco-American was bought out by Campbell's Soup Company in 1915; however, Campbell's continued to sell Franco-American branded products, including its canned mac and cheese, for decades. In 1959, Franco-American macaroni and cheese was going strong, and had even gained a celebrity spokesperson –June Lockhart — who appeared in a television commercial for Franco-American canned macaroni and cheese, in which she promoted the casserole preparation.

Although the popularity of the product seemed to guarantee it would be around for decades to come, that didn't end up being the case. In 2004, Campbell's decided to stop selling canned pasta products under the Franco-American label. According to the New York Times at the time, Franco-American products had been struggling to keep up with competitors such as Chef Boyardee and Heinz. The Franco-American logo did remain on the label of some Campbell's products such as Spaghetti-O's, but it was moved to the back of the can. Other products such as the canned mac and cheese were simply discontinued.

Will Franco-American canned mac and cheese ever come back?

There's a sizeable number of people who would like to see Franco-American canned mac and cheese on shelves again. There's a Facebook group with more than 1,000 members, and a petition, though neither seems to have been successful at getting the attention of Campbell's. Unfortunately for fans, it seems unlikely that this product will ever be brought back. Not only does the brand no longer exist, its two main competitors, Chef Boyardee and Heinz, still make canned mac and cheese, so if Campbell's were to bring back the Franco-American version, it could easily run into the same issue that led them to retire it.

A big reason that people seem to want Franco-American canned macaroni and cheese to be brought back has more to do with nostalgia than with the quality of the product. Some people on a Reddit thread said they remember having it as kids. Diehard fans might be consoled to know that, according to Amazon reviews, the Heinz version is similar enough to satisfy a craving for the Franco-American version.