8 Things You Might Not Know About Annie's Homegrown

Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Founded in 1989, Annie's Homegrown makes natural and organic macaroni and cheese in the shape of rabbits and shells. Although the company's mac and cheese is super successful—only Kraft sells more of the cheesy comfort food—Annie's also produces other foods, like yogurt, crackers, pretzels, cookies, frozen pizza, condiments, and fruit snacks.

1. Annie is a real person, and Annie's Homegrown is her second major success story.

Annie Withey founded Smartfood popcorn in 1984 with her then-husband Andrew Martin, and after its sale five years later to Frito-Lay for $15 million, she got to thinking about the white cheddar cheese she'd created to coat that product. Instead of retiring young (Withey was 21 when she first concocted the powdered cheddar with no artificial preservatives or coloring), she experimented with putting that cheese on pasta instead of popcorn. It worked.

2. Withey and Martin sold Annie's Mac and Cheese at New England food co-ops and markets.

Withey and Martin loved the taste of the cheesy pasta, so they co-founded Annie's Homegrown in 1989. Hoping to give families healthy, organic foods, they sold their macaroni and cheese, free of preservatives and artificial colors, at food co-ops and grocery stores around New England.

3. A rabbit named Bernie is Annie's official mascot.

A cartoon version of Bernie, Withey's pet rabbit, appears on boxes of Annie's products. Bernie the Bunny gives Annie's products his "Rabbit of Approval" seal, indicating that the food is healthy, nutritious, and environmentally friendly. Sadly, the real-life Bernie died in the early '90s.

4. Withey sold her company in 1999, but still serves as Annie's "Inspirational President."

In 1999, a natural foods entrepreneur named John Foraker invested in Annie's and then bought Withey and Martin's stake in the company. Until 2017, Foraker served as Annie's CEO and president, with Withey taking the title of "Inspirational President," a figurehead role that allows the company to follow her philosophy on organic food and sustainable agriculture.

5. Annie's Homegrown bought a natural food line started by, coincidentally, another Annie.

In 2005, Annie's acquired a smaller company called Annie's Naturals, a Vermont-based company which produced bottles of organic salad dressing, pasta sauce, barbecue sauce, and condiments. Started by husband-and-wife team Peter Backman and Annie Christopher, Annie's Naturals made GMO-free dressings with flavors like Shiitake & Sesame and Garlic Parmesan Tofu. Annie's Homegrown incorporated some of Annie's Naturals dressings and condiments into their own product line after the acquisition.

6. Consumers debate whether Annie's is really healthy or not.

Although Annie's products are organic and free of GMOs, trans fats, and added sugar, some critics argue that Annie's is not as healthy as it purports to be. These critics point out that a serving of Annie's mac and cheese has a similar amount of calories, sodium, and saturated fat as Kraft mac and cheese, and Annie's uses refined flour as opposed to whole grain flour. In response, Annie's has reiterated that its goal is to make cleaner, more natural versions of convenience foods.

7. General Mills purchased Annie's Homegrown for almost a billion dollars.

In 2014, General Mills bought Annie's for $820 million. Some customers expressed concern that Annie's was "selling out" and would add artificial ingredients to their food to cut costs, but Foraker, Annie's CEO, reassured customers that Annie's would remain committed to GMO-free products and stressed that the acquisition would help Annie's get into the homes of more people. Annie's was incorporated into GM's Small Planet Foods, the company's organic/natural foods branch.

8. Annie's once had a line of pasta shaped like Arthur, the aardvark.

Offering more than just bunny shaped pasta, Annie's once had a line of pasta shaped like Arthur, the aardvark from the children's books. And through Bernie's Book Club, which offers reading suggestions for babies up to adults, Annie's joined forces with the PBS show Arthur to help promote reading.

A New Jersey Pizzeria Is Using Its Delivery Boxes to Help Find Missing Pets

John Howard/iStock via Getty Images
John Howard/iStock via Getty Images

You might overlook dozens of “Lost Dog” posters nailed to telephone posts on a weekly basis, but would you miss one pasted to the top of your pizza box? One New Jersey pizzeria owner thinks not.

John Sanfratello, owner of Angelo’s Pizza in Matawan, New Jersey, is asking people from all over the state to send him their lost pet flyers so that he can tape them to his delivery boxes, CBS News reports. The idea occurred to him after his neighbor’s cat went missing: Though that cat has since been found, Sanfratello started to wonder how he could help reunite other lost pets with their owners. Since the pizza was getting delivered around the city anyway, he thought, why not add a message?

One patron of the pizzeria told CBS News she thinks the practice has “triggered a community effort by everyone” to pay a little extra attention to their fellow residents. And Sanfratello’s sister has also adopted the idea for her own pizza shops in Florida.

Angelo’s Pizza is currently spreading the word about two other missing animals: a cat and a Seeing Eye dog in training named Ondrea, who recently escaped her yard while chasing another animal. The German shepherd puppy has been lost for almost four weeks, and her owners said they’ve done everything they could think of—searching the woods, putting up flyers around town, and posting on Facebook—to no avail.

It’s a new spin on the old practice of printing photos of missing children on milk cartons, Sanfratello said. Though that may have fallen out of fashion in the late 1980s, Sanfratello has high hopes for this new partnership between pizza and pet owners.

[h/t CBS News]

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