Kraft Heinz was accused of sexualizing mac ‘n’ cheese with their now-expired “Send Noods” campaign, which allowed customers to send a free box of mac ‘n’ cheese—or a coupon for redeeming—to loved ones.
According to Buzzfeed News, a spokeswoman for the food conglomerate, Lynne Galia, explained the company’s marketing strategy was inspired by National Noodle Day and:
“encouraged adults to send free noodles to loved ones to provide comfort and make them smile.”
No purchase necessary. 18+ 10/6 – 10/11 while supplies last. Rules @http://fooji.info/enjoynoods
— Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (@kraftmacncheese) October 6, 2020
Kraft announced their #SendNoods campaign on Tuesday in a now-deleted video featuring former Saturday Night Live actor Vanessa Bayer.
The commercial playfully referenced the abridged term for “noodles.”
Bayer explained in the video:
“In these strange times, people are in need of extra comfort. That’s why it’s always a nice gesture to send noods.”
“To be clear, I’m not advocating you send nudes to anyone. … Send noods, not nudes.”
Recipients of the gesture received something like this:
— MacKenzie (@kenzie1211) October 6, 2020
A follow-up ad showed the instruction of goodwill superimposed over a blurred image of a bowl of mac ‘n’ cheese.
But the noodle pun was lost on certain consumers who misinterpreted “noods” as something suggestive and even sinister.
Incensed mothers found Kraft was being “wildly inappropriate,” and they accused the “family company” of being “predatory” toward children because kids are the primary consumers of mac ‘n’ cheese.
#SendNoods why is a Mac and cheese brand telling me to send them noods- I'm a child 😭
— C h a r l i e (@Candimatsu) October 6, 2020
What the crap Kraft… I feel this is slightly inappropriate, and could possibly let children think it’s appropriate for them to send real “noods.” Now I’ve got the blue box blues… 😒
— 🎵Kellie🎵 (@kellie4music) October 7, 2020
Disapproving consumers called for a boycott, including this commenter who threatened to drop Kraft for Annie’s Homegrown – also known for their mac ‘n’ cheese products.
“This is not okay. Don’t you realize that a huge portion of the people who actually eat your mac n’ cheese are children?! Please delete this!! Unacceptable! Switching over to Annie’s organics.”
The media outlet said Instagram user @jessirodgerson – a mom of two young boys – wrote:
“I do not want my boys growing up and seeing a commercial where they joke about the exploitation of children!”
Buzzfeed also mentioned that angry mothers used the joke to reinforce fears of mass child trafficking – a QAnon conspiracy theory in which members falsely believe a vast network of liberal elites are snatching up kids and selling them to sex traffic rings.
Kraft alluded to the backlash on their Instagram Stories and announced:
“We sincerely appreciate and hear all of your feedback. The content will be removed from our channels.”
Twitter rolled their eyes over the uproar.
kraft having to delete their "send noods" campaign because a bunch of QAnon-curious mommy bloggers thought it was telling kids to send actual nudes is the dumbest thing that has happened in 2020 pic.twitter.com/60h32BMBSq
— Shay Spence (@chezspence) October 13, 2020
😂😂😂😂 qnon is a sickness
— Adrianna Adarme (@acozykitchen) October 13, 2020
This is why we can't have nice things…🤦🏻♀️
— Jo Dean Townsend (@JodeanTownsend) October 13, 2020
Most adults would find this very stupid🤦🏻♀️ that crowd of crazy is super problematic on a very destructive scale
— Ashley (@AshleyMarinCRPS) October 13, 2020
So sad. So pathetic.
— Jason Metz (@MKTGInfluencers) October 13, 2020
Despite the controversy, Kraft’s marketing strategy was hardly a failure.
“The social promotion resulted in over 20,000 consumers across the country receiving boxes of America’s favorite Kraft Mac and Cheese.”