Kraft Heinz Lunchables to be part of the National School Lunch Program this fall
No need to pack 'em. Kraft Heinz (KHC) Lunchables could be at sold at your child's school cafeteria this fall.
The company announced that healthier versions of the popular DIY food packs will be part of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in the coming school year. The foray into K-8 lunchrooms includes two offerings, Lunchables Turkey and Cheese and Extra Cheesy Pizza. It's the company's biggest "away from home" innovation this year, a Kraft Heinz spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.
The NSLP provides low-cost or free lunches to children and operates in nearly 100,000 public and nonprofit private schools (grades Pre-K to12) and residential child care institutions. In fiscal year 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the program provided 4.9 billion lunches at a total cost of $14.2 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the agency.
Kraft Heinz did not reveal the terms of the deal to Yahoo Finance or potential costs for schools or students, but did say that they are working directly with school districts, which develop their own school cafeteria menus and will ultimately decide whether or not to offer the products. At the end of the day, however, it'll likely be a boon to the company. In 2022, Lunchables brought in $1.8 billion in sales and made up 8.6% of total Kraft Heinz sales.
According to the company, the school offerings have a "specialized recipe" and will differ from those sold in retail stores.
In order to meet the requirements of the NSLP, Kraft Heinz changed the original recipes to incorporate more protein and whole grains, reduced saturated fat and sodium, and increased serving size.
For the school Turkey and Chedder Stacker, the 3.5 ounce option will include 2 ounces of meat/meat alternative and a 1-ounce equivalent of grain. The Extra Cheesy Pizza has a 5.05 ounce option that includes 2 ounces equivalent of meat/meat alternative and a 2-ounces equivalent of grain, plus a 1/8 cup of a red/orange vegetable.
This comes at a time when the USDA Food and Nutrition Service is proposing updates to the "school nutrition standards in a few key areas to provide children with even healthier school meals," a USDA spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.
A Kraft Heinz spokesperson said the revamped products are the "latest example of the brand’s commitment to the health and nutrition of consumers."
Lunchables is also testing the addition of fruits for its retail offerings later this year with "the potential to scale nationally in 2024."
As a refrigerated, not frozen product, the addition of perishable items in the Lunchables packages was an ongoing pain point.
Now, it's using the concept of refrigerated, not frozen, to help with "minimizing ... [schools'] labor needs and costs," as seen on a sell sheet on the Kraft Heinz' food services website.
Brooke DiPalma is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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