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Kraft Sues Cracker Barrel Over Name

Kraft Sues Cracker Barrel Over Name

There's only room for one Cracker Barrel brand in the grocery

Wikimedia/Nightscream

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store awoke a sleeping giant when it decided to branch out into retail supermarket products, and now it faces a lawsuit from Kraft Foods over naming rights.

According to USA Today, Kraft says it has been using the "Cracker Barrel" name on cheese since 1954. Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores didn't start opening its old-timey, country-themed restaurants until 1969. Kraft ignored the issue until now because Cracker Barrel kept to its restaurants and attached stores, and the only food products it was selling were things like sauces and pancake mixes that were only available through its stores or website.

But at the end of November Cracker Barrel signed a licensing deal with a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods to produce a Cracker Barrel deli line that would include bacon, lunchmeat, sausage, and gravy. The new line was intended to be sold at supermarkets and club stores, and Kraft Foods is having none of it.

According to the lawsuit filed on Thursday, Kraft is looking to stop Cracker Barrel from ever selling any branded food items outside of its own stores, restaurants, and website.

"Kraft hopes that this matter can be resolved without having to proceed with the litigation and has invited Cracker Barrel to propose a settlement," spokeswoman Sydney Lindner said to USA Today. "If settlement talks do not go forward, the litigation will."


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Contents

Origin of the firm Edit

Kraft Foods traced its roots to the National Dairy Products Corporation, formed on December 10, 1923, by Thomas H. McInnerney. [9] The firm was initially set up to execute on a rollup strategy in the fragmented United States ice cream industry. Through acquisitions it expanded into a full range of dairy products. By 1930 it was the largest dairy company in the United States and the world, exceeding Borden.

McInnerney operated the Hydrox Corporation, an ice cream company located in Chicago, Illinois. In 1923 he went to Wall Street to convince investment bankers there to finance his scheme for consolidating the United States ice cream industry. He initially found "hard sledding" with one banker saying the dairy industry "lacked dignity". He persevered and convinced a consortium including Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers to finance a roll-up strategy. [10]

As a result of his efforts, National Dairy Products Corporation was formed in 1923 in a merger of McInnerney's Hydrox with Rieck McJunkin Dairy Co of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The resulting firm was then listed on the New York Stock Exchange with the offer of 125,000 shares having been oversubscribed. [11]

The firm grew quickly through a large number of acquisitions. As it is typical in a roll-up strategy, acquisitions were primarily for stock in National rather than cash. National Dairy Products Corporation acquired more than 55 firms between 1923 and 1931, with a few notable entities among those:

Year Firm Sector Location
1924 W.E. Hoffman Ice cream Pennsylvania
1925 Dunkin Ice Cream Ice cream Illinois
1925 Sheffield Farms Fluid milk, ice cream, other New York
1926 Breyer's Ice Cream (dessert products currently owned by Unilever) Ice cream Pennsylvania
1928 Breakstone Brothers Fluid milk, cheese New York
1928 General Ice Cream Ice cream New York, East Coast
1929 Hiland Dairy Fluid milk, other Kentucky
1930 Kraft-Phenix Cheese, other US, international
1931 Consolidated Dairy Products Ice cream, other dairy New York, New Jersey

Beginnings for Kraft Edit

Born in Stevensville, Ontario, Canada in 1874, James L. Kraft immigrated to the United States in 1903 and started a wholesale door-to-door cheese business in Chicago its first year of operations was "dismal", losing US$3,000 and a horse. However, the business took hold and Kraft was joined by his four brothers to form J.L. Kraft and Bros. Company in 1909. As early as 1911, circulars and advertisements were in use by the company. [12]

In 1912, the company established its New York City, New York, headquarters to prepare for its international expansion. By 1914, thirty-one varieties of cheeses were being sold around the U.S. because of heavy product development, expansion by marketing, and opening a wholly owned cheese factory in Stockton, Illinois. [1] [13] [14]

In 1915, the company had invented pasteurized processed cheese that did not need refrigeration, thus giving a longer shelf life than conventional cheese. [1] The process was patented in 1916 and about six million pounds of the product were sold to the U.S. Army for military rations during World War I.

In 1916, the company began national advertising and had made its first acquisition—a Canadian cheese company. [1]

In 1924, the company changed its name to Kraft Cheese Company and listed on the Chicago Stock Exchange. [1] In 1926, it was listed on the NYSE. The firm then began to consolidate the United States dairy industry through acquisition, in competition with National and Borden. Firms acquired included:

Year Firm Sector Location
1927 A.E. Wright Salad dressings n/a
1928 Phenix Cheese Cheese, other dairy products National
1928 Southern Dairies Fluid milk, milk powder, other dairy products U.S. South
1928 10 "cheese dealers" Cheese, other dairy products New York
1928 Henard Mayonnaise Co Mayonnaise n/a
1929 D.J. Easton Mayonnaise New Jersey
1929 2 other mayonnaise companies Mayonnaise n/a
1929 10 companies Cheese, other dairy products various regional
1929 International Wood Products n/a n/a
1929 Gelfand Manufacturing n/a n/a

in May 1926 the Kraft Walker Cheese Co. was registered in Australia. It was a separate company from Fred Walker & Co. but managed by the same staff. Fred Walker was chairman by 1930, and after his death in July 1935, Kraft acquired the company. [15]

Later, in 1927, it established its London, United Kingdom, and Hamburg, Germany, sales offices—its first forays outside North America. Sales for 1927 were $60.4m.

In 1928, it acquired Phenix Cheese Company, the maker of a cream cheese branded as Philadelphia cream cheese, founded by Jason F. Whitney, Sr. and the company changed its name to Kraft-Phenix Cheese Company.

In 1929, The New York Times reported that Kraft Phenix, The Hershey Company and Colgate were looking at merging. [16] In the same year, it was reported that National, Borden and Standard Brands (a firm that is now part of Kraft Foods) were all looking at acquiring the firm.

By 1930, it had captured forty percent of the cheese market in the U.S. and was the third largest dairy company in the United States after National Dairy and Borden. [1]

Post National acquisition of Kraft-Phenix Edit

At the time of the acquisition in 1930, National Dairy had sales of $315m compared with $85m for Kraft Phenix. National Dairy management ran the combined business. Following the Kraft-Phenix acquisition, the firm continued to be called National Dairy until 1969 when it changed its name to Kraftco. [17]

Historically, all of the firm's sales came from dairy products. However, the firm's product lines began to diversify away from dairy products to caramel candies, macaroni and cheese dinners and margarines. From the 1950s onward, the firm began to move away from low value added commodity dairy products, such as fluid milk. [18] This trend would continue for the firm, through neglect and divestiture, until the primary remaining dairy product produced by the firm would be cheese. As a result, the modern history of the firm emphasizes the cheese history.

In 1933, the company began marketing by radio sponsorship. In 1935, the Sealtest brand of ice cream was launched as a unified national brand to replace the firm's numerous regional brands. [1]

During World War II, the company sent four million pounds of cheese to Britain weekly. [1]

Product development and advertising helped the company to grow during the postwar years, launching sliced process cheese and Cheez Whiz, a brand of process cheese sauce, in the 1950s.

During these years, Thomas McInnerney, National Dairy's founder, and James L. Kraft, Kraft's founder, died, and at the end of the decade, the divisions became less autonomous and even diversified to the glass-packaging business with the acquisition of Metro Glass in 1956. [1]

In 1947, the company tested the marketing power of the emerging medium of television by producing an hour-long drama/anthology series, the Kraft Television Theatre. The product advertised on the program, MacLaren’s Imperial Cheese, was selected because ". [it had] not only had no advertising appropriation whatsoever, but had not even been distributed for several years." As described by internal documents of J. Walter Thompson—the advertising firm which conceived of the marketing test—the result was "although there was no other advertising support for it whatsoever, still grocery stores could not keep up with the demand." [19]

In the 1960s, product development became intense, launching fruit jellies, fruit preserves, marshmallows, barbecue sauces and Kraft Singles, a brand of individually wrapped cheese slices. [1] During this decade, the company also expanded in many markets worldwide.

In 1961, the firm acquired Dominion Dairies of Canada, marking the first effort by the firm to expand into fluid milk and ice cream outside the United States. [20] In the same year it also acquired The Southern Oil Company in Manchester, England.

National Dairy becomes Kraft Edit

In 1969, the firm changed its name from National Dairy to Kraftco Corporation. The reason for the name change was given at the time: "Expansion and innovation have taken us far afield from the regional milk and ice cream business we started with in 1923. Dollar sales of these original products have remained relatively static over the past ten years and, in 1969 accounted for approximately 25% of our sales." [21] At the same time, the firm transferred to Glenview, Illinois, in 1972. [1] In 1976, its name changed to Kraft, Inc. to emphasize the trademark the company had been known for and as a result of the fact that dairy, other than cheese, was now only a minor part of the company's sales. Reorganization also occurred after the name change. [1]

Dart merger Edit

In 1980, Kraft merged with Dart Industries—makers of the Duracell brand of batteries, Tupperware brand of plastic containers, West Bend brand of home appliances, Wilsonart brand of plastics and Thatcher glass—to form Dart & Kraft. [1]

During the 1980s, Dart & Kraft offered mixed results to its shareholders, as new acquisitions in the food business—such as Churny premium cheeses, Lender's Bagels, Frusen Gladje ice cream and Celestial Seasonings tea—slightly offset the lagging nonfood business—Tupperware's decrease in sales and KitchenAid's (acquired soon after the merger) slide in market share—leading Dart & Kraft to spin off its nonfood business (except Duracell batteries) into a new entity (Premark International, Inc.) while changing its name back to Kraft, Inc. Premark was bought by Illinois Tool Works in 1999. In 1988, Kraft sold Duracell to private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, who then put it into an initial public offering in 1989. Gillette [1] bought Duracell in 1996, and itself was acquired by Procter and Gamble in 2005.

Philip Morris acquisition and merger with General Foods Edit

At the end of 1988, Philip Morris Companies purchased Kraft for $12.9 billion. In 1989, Kraft merged with Philip Morris's General Foods unit—makers of Oscar Mayer meats, Maxwell House coffee, Jell-O gelatin, Budget Gourmet frozen dinners, Entenmann's baked goods, Kool-Aid, Crystal Light and Tang powdered beverage mixes, Post Cereals, Shake 'n Bake flavored coatings and numerous other packaged foods—as Kraft General Foods. Its aggressive product development was reversed after the merger, as it became slow in addressing issues on its product lines due to its size, and also company politics. [1]

In 1990, the company acquired Jacobs Suchard (a European coffee and confectionery giant) and Freia Marabou (a Scandinavian confectionery maker) to expand overseas as its business was heavily dependent on the U.S. In 1993, it acquired RJR Nabisco's cold cereal business (mainly Shredded Wheat and Shreddies cereals) while selling its Breyers ice-cream division to Unilever and its Birds Eye unit to Dean Foods. In 1994, it sold its frozen dinners unit to H.J. Heinz and in 1995, it sold its foodservice unit. [1]

In 1995, it changed its name to the present name, Kraft Foods. The same year, it sold its bakery division (except Lender's Bagels, which was sold in 1996 to CPC International), its candy division and its tablespreads division. Log Cabin syrup was sold in 1997. [1]

On August 2, 1996, Kraft announced a deal with PepsiCo to market the Taco Bell brand of grocery products. [23]

As of 2007, Philip Morris (now Altria Inc.) had sold its stake in Kraft foods and the two companies are no longer affiliated.

Financial expansion Edit

In 2000, Philip Morris (renamed Altria in 2003) acquired Nabisco Holdings for $18.9 billion and merged the company with Kraft Foods the same year. [1] In 2001, Philip Morris sold 280 million Kraft shares via the third-largest IPO of all time, retaining an 88.1% stake in the company.

In 2004, it sold its sugar confectionery division to Wrigley, [24] [25] while doing minor divestitures—including its hot cereals division (Cream of Wheat) to B&G Foods in 2007, [26] its pet snacks division (Milk-Bone) in 2006, juice drinks and Fruit2o in 2007 and some grocery brands in 2006. [ clarification needed ]

In 2006, the company bought Southern European business of United Biscuits, gaining several local brands such as Galletas Fontanenda. [27]

Investor Nelson Peltz bought a three-percent stake at Kraft Foods and was talking with the executives on revitalizing the business, [28] with options such as buying Wendy's fast-food chain or selling off Post cereals and Maxwell House coffee. [28] On January 31, 2007, after months of speculation, the company announced that its 88.1% stake would be spun off to Altria shareholders at the end of March 2007, giving each approximately 0.7 shares of Kraft for each share of Altria they owned. Kraft became an independent publicly held company.

In July 2007, the company bought Groupe Danone's biscuit (cookie) and cereal division for $7.2 billion, including iconic French biscuit brand Lefèvre-Utile. [28] [29] While two years earlier firestorms of protest had arisen over plans for American PepsiCo's hostile takeover of the French company, Kraft's announcement was not met with the same protests, in part because Kraft agreed not to close French factories and keep the new merged divisions headquarters near Paris for at least three years. [28]

In November 2007, Kraft agreed to sell its cereal unit to Ralcorp Holdings, a major private-label food maker, for $2.6 billion in a form of a spin-off merger. This would add 50% to Ralcorp's sales, to $3.3 billion, and will be used for Kraft's debt payment, which was at $13.4 billion, in danger of a downgrade by Standard and Poor's. [30] [ clarification needed ]

In February 2008, Berkshire Hathaway run by billionaire investor Warren E. Buffett announced that it had acquired an 8% stake in Kraft then worth over $4 billion. Buffett's business partner Charles Munger had also invested over $300 million in Kraft. Berkshire Hathaway owned 5.6% of the outstanding stock of Kraft Foods, as reported in the holding company's 2010 annual report. [31]

On September 22, 2008, the company replaced the troubled insurance company, American International Group in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. [4]

Purchase of Cadbury Edit

On September 7, 2009, Kraft made a £10.2 billion takeover offer for the long-established British confectionery group Cadbury, makers of Dairy Milk and Bournville chocolate. [32] On November 9, 2009, Kraft's £9.8bn takeover bid was rejected by Cadbury. Cadbury stated that the takeover bid was a "derisory" offer. [33] Kraft renewed the offer under the same terms on December 4, 2009. [34] The offer generated significant political and public opposition in the United Kingdom and abroad, even leading to calls for the government to implement a policy of economic protectionism in cases of takeovers of large companies. [35] On January 19, 2010, Cadbury finally approved a revised offer from Kraft, valuing the confectionery business at $19.5 billion (£11.5 billion). The funding for the takeover was partially provided by the Royal Bank of Scotland, the British part-state-owned bank. [36]

The Cadbury purchase was part of the long-term strategy of Irene Rosenfeld, CEO and Kraft Chairman since March 2007, who developed a three-year turnaround plan designed to drive the profitable growth of Kraft Foods. [37] Rosenfeld wanted to develop new markets and expand product range when she assumed the role of chairman. It was assumed that the purchase of Cadbury would help Kraft products develop in new markets such as Brazil and India because of Cadbury's current strong presence in those markets. [38] India is one of its most resilient markets with sales growth of 20% and profits growing at 30% in a competitive market. [39] Kraft believed the Cadbury purchase was also necessary because of the likelihood of Nestlé and Hershey joining together. [ citation needed ] Kraft also believed it could squeeze savings of at least $675m annually by the end of the third year. [40] Irene Rosenfeld saw the Kraft Cadbury merger as the "logical next step in our transformation toward a high-growth, higher-margin company". She also justified the merger in order to build a "global powerhouse in snacks, confectionery and quick meals". [41]

Following the purchase of Cadbury, Kraft commanded 14.8% of the global candy and gum market. Kraft argued that it could take advantage of the Cadbury distribution in developing markets of India, Brazil and Mexico. [42] As incomes rise in these developing nations, Kraft hopes that products such as Oreo will become impulse buys for children. [42] Mars, Inc. is second in the confectionery market with 14.6% share, followed by Nestlé with 7.8%. [43]

At the time of the purchase, the chocolate and sugar industry had been growing rapidly at 15% over the previous three years and was valued at $113 billion. [44] The purchase of Cadbury was considered strange because they did not have a strong foothold on the confectionery market, but at the time Kraft noted their production of confectionery foods like Toblerone and candy foods like Oreo. Cadbury also owned popular gum brands such as Stride, Trident, Dentyne, and Chiclets. [45] Roger Carr, chairman of Cadbury, discussed his approval of the takeover by Kraft by saying, "We believe the offer represents good value for Cadbury shareholders and are pleased with the commitment that Kraft Foods has made to our heritage, values and people throughout the world." [46]

Acquisition fallout Edit

Cadbury sales were flat after Kraft's acquisition. Despite the Cadbury takeover helping boost sales by 30%, Kraft's net profit for the fourth quarter fell 24% to $540m due to costs associated with integrating the UK business after the acquisition. [47] Kraft spent a one-time $1.3 billion in integration costs to achieve $675 million in recurring annual synergy savings by the end of 2012 (estimated). [48] Kraft was forced to increase prices to offset rising commodity costs in North America and Europe. Kraft has had to contend with the higher cost of ingredients such as corn, sugar and cocoa. Kraft chief executive Irene Rosenfeld said, “We expect it will remain weak for the foreseeable future.” Taking into account integration costs, the acquisition knocked about 33% off Kraft's earnings per share immediately after the purchase of Cadbury. [47] In March 2011, Kraft caused national outrage when they sold the site of a historic Cadbury factory it vowed not to close for £50million after initially publicly promising the continuity of production within the UK in order to win over support for the deal from shareholders. Instead, production was immediately outsourced to Poland. The Somerdale Factory was closed just days after the takeover by Kraft Foods. Former Cadbury workers demanded an apology for the abrupt selling of the plant, but Kraft's CEO Irene Rosenfeld refused to explain her actions. [49] Kraft continues to use Cadbury brands in emerging markets to expand all of its products. In April 2011, Kraft set to invest $150 million in South Africa's manufacturing plants over three years. President Sanjay Khosla said, "South Africa is a priority market for us, where we focus on power brands like Cadbury chocolate." [50]

Sale of frozen pizza division to Nestlé Edit

On March 1, 2010, Nestlé concluded the purchase of Kraft's North American frozen pizza business for $3.7 billion. Kraft left the door open to repurchase with a buyback option not before one year and not after three years for the original sale price of $3.7 billion. Although not likely if Kraft were to want to repurchase they would have to come up with cash only and no stocks. The sale included DiGiorno, Tombstone and Jack's brands in the United States, the Delissio brand in Canada and the California Pizza Kitchen trademark license. It also includes two Wisconsin manufacturing facilities in Medford and Little Chute. The business generated 2009 net revenues of $1.6 billion, with 3,400 employees. [51]

Proposed split Edit

After a period of poor share performance and investor criticism, Rosenfeld was forced to announce in 2011 the proposed split of the company into two new entities. Both were to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, but the company has recently decided to move to NASDAQ, and the split companies will also trade on NASDAQ. [52] The first entity would retain the Kraft foods names and brands, and focus on the North American foods business. The second, later proposed to be named Mondelēz International, would focus on the global snacks business, and would include the former Cadbury businesses, plus global brands including Dairylea and Philadelphia. [53] On April 2, 2012, Kraft Foods Inc. announced that it had filed a Form 10 Registration Statement to the SEC to split the company into two companies to serve the "North American grocery business". [54] The split was structured so that Kraft Foods changed its name to Mondelez International and spun off Kraft Foods Group as a new publicly traded company.

Kraft Foods Inc was an official partner and sponsor of Major League Soccer and sponsored the Kraft Nabisco Championship, one of the four "majors" on the LPGA tour. The company also sponsored the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, a post-season college football bowl game.

Kraft Hockeyville originally was Canadian reality television series developed by CBC Sports in 2006 and was sponsored by Kraft Foods in which communities across Canada compete to demonstrate their commitment to the sport of ice hockey. The contest revolves around a central theme of community spirit in Canada. In 2007, the contest was relegated to segments aired on Hockey Night in Canada

Kraft released an iPad app called "Big Fork Little Fork" in 2011 which, in addition to games and other distractions, has information regarding how to use Kraft foods in nutritious ways. [55] [56] This app costs $1.99 a version for home computers is available on the iTunes app store.

Before the company was split, its core businesses were in beverage, cheese, dairy foods, snack foods, confectionery, and convenience foods.

Kraft's major brands, which each generated revenues exceeding $1 billion, as: [2]

Seventy additional brands have revenues greater than $100 million. In total, 40 brands are at least 100 years old. [57]

Trans-fat litigation Edit

In 2003, a California lawyer made national headlines by suing Kraft for using trans fat in Oreo cookies. [58] Kraft foods announced a trans-fat free reformulation of Oreos shortly after the 2003 lawsuit was filed, and the lawsuit was dropped. Kraft denied that the change was made in response to the lawsuit, noting that the reformulation had been in planning long before the lawsuit. [59]

In 2010, two California residents filed a class action lawsuit against Kraft Foods for claiming certain products are healthy when in fact they contain unhealthy trans fat. Kraft denied any wrongdoing, saying all packaging claims are true and legal. As of June 2012, the case is still ongoing. [60]

A United States District Judge certified the class on June 6, 2012. [60]

Teddy Grahams, varieties of Ritz Crackers, Honey Maid Grahams, Premium Saltines, Ginger Snaps, and Vegetable Thins all contain artificial trans fat, and Kraft presents these products as healthy with phrases like "wholesome choice", "sensible snacking", and "made with real vegetables". The complaint in the case argues that these claims are a violation of California's Unfair Competition Law, Consumer Legal Remedies Act, and False Advertising Law. [60] [61]

The lawsuit cites current scientific consensus on the dangerous health effects of trans fat, which causes coronary heart disease [62] and has been linked to type 2 diabetes [63] and some forms of cancer. [61] [64] The American Heart Association concludes that there is "no safe level" of trans fat in the diet. [65]

Based on the trans fat content and other unhealthy ingredients in Kraft products, the lawsuit makes several arguments: [61]

  • Health claims like "a wholesome choice", which appears on Teddy Grahams, and "Sensible Snacking", which appears on several products, are false.
  • "No cholesterol" claims are misleading because they imply that the snack is good for cholesterol levels, when in fact trans fat is worse for cholesterol health than actual dietary cholesterol.
  • Claims like "made with real vegetables" or "real ginger & molasses" are misleading because the products contain less of these "real" and healthy ingredients than they contain artificial trans fat.
  • Teddy Grahams packaging claims to be a "good source of calcium, iron & zinc to support kids' growth and development", but this health claim is deceptive because the trans fat content is more harmful than the minerals are helpful.
  • Various additional phrases like "whole wheat" and "graham" imply a health benefit that the products do not contain.
  • On each package, some individual claims may be true, but overall, they add to the deceptive message of healthfulness.

Kraft denies any wrongdoing. Kraft's response briefs emphasize that the challenged claims are technically true. For example, Vegetable Thins are "made with real vegetables", and Kraft argues that this true statement cannot be called misleading. Kraft uses a similar line of argument for claims like "good source of calcium, iron & zinc to support kids' growth and development", "whole wheat", and others.

Regarding several packaging claims, Kraft argues that they are not factual statements that can be proven true or false. For example, Kraft argues that the word "wholesome" is subjective and vague. Promotional statements that are too vague to prove or disprove are called puffery and are not actionable under the law. Kraft argues that "wholesome", "sensible", and "smart" are all puffery and therefore cannot be found misleading or deceitful. [66]

Political campaign Edit

In 2012, Kraft contributed $1,950,500 to a $46 million political campaign known as "The Coalition Against The Costly Food Labeling Proposition, sponsored by Farmers and Food Producers" [67] The organization was founded to oppose Proposition 37, a California citizen's initiative mandating the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients. As a result, there were calls for a boycott of Kraft products. [68]

Environmental record Edit

For years Kraft purchased paper for its packaging from Asia Pulp & Paper, the third-largest paper producer in the world which was called a "forest criminal" for destroying "precious habitat" in Indonesia's rain forest. [69] In 2011, when Kraft cancelled its contract with Asia Pulp & Paper, Greenpeace executive director Phil Radford commended the company for "taking rainforest conservation seriously". [70]

Kraft began a major restructuring process in January 2004, following a year of declining sales (blamed largely on the rising health consciousness of Americans) and the sacking of co-CEO Betsy Holden. The company announced closures of 19 production facilities worldwide and the reduction of 5,500 jobs, as well as the sale of 10% of its branded products.

On January 19, 2010, Kraft sealed the deal to buy 100% of the share capital of Cadbury for over $19 billion. [71] [72]

On March 17, 2010, Kraft Foods said it was "truly sorry" over its closure of a Cadbury factory in Somerdale. Senior Kraft executive Marc Firestone made the public apology to MPs at a parliamentary select committee hearing. [73]

In March 2011, in the US, Kraft Foods introduced MiO, a liquid flavoring product with zero calories and sugar-free geared to 18 to 39-year-old consumers. [74] MiO has no artificial flavors but it does have artificial colors, artificial sweeteners and artificial preservatives, unlike some competing flavoring products, according to USA Today. [75]

In August 2011, Kraft Foods announced plans to split into two publicly traded companies—a snack food company and a grocery company. [76]

On September 10, 2010, a disgruntled employee angered over a recent suspension, Yvonne Hiller, opened fire inside the Philadelphia Factory where she had worked for 15 years. Armed with a .357, Yvonne shot 3 co-workers, killing 2 of them. Philadelphia Police responded within minutes of the 911 call. SWAT took Yvonne into custody at 8:30pm. [77]

In September 2000, up to $50 million worth of taco shells were recalled by Kraft from supermarkets and Taco Bell restaurants. The shells contained genetically modified corn, which was not approved for human consumption by the Food and Drug Administration the recall was the first of a genetically modified food. The corn was supplied to a plant from which Kraft bought the shells. [78]

In April 2009, Kraft Foods recalled products containing pistachios after the discovery of salmonella at one of its Illinois manufacturers. Kraft pinpointed as the source a California pistachio grower, which initially recalled over 2,000,000 pounds (910,000 kg) of nuts before broadening the recall to much of its 2008 crop. [79] [80] A Washington Post editorial credited the "aggressive food safety system at Kraft Foods" with effectively addressing the danger. [81]

In September 2011, Kraft recalled over 130,000 cases of Velveeta Shells and Cheese microwaveable cups because of possible wire bristles in the cups. [82]


Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. et al

The Seventh Circuit affirmed, in Kraft Foods Group Inc.'s underlying trademark suit, a preliminary injunction to block restaurant chain Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. from selling branded food products in grocery stores, saying Thursday that consumers could easily confuse the two companies' lines.

Cracker Barrel To Rebrand Meats Barred In Kraft Mark Row

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc., which is facing a trademark infringement suit from Kraft Foods Group Inc. over its plans to sell meat products in grocery stores under the name "Cracker Barrel," announced Friday that it had reached a deal with Kraft under which it would rebrand those items.

Cracker Barrel Products Blocked In Kraft Trademark Row

Kraft Foods Group Inc. won a preliminary injunction in Illinois federal court Monday, blocking Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. from making, marketing or selling its grocery store products while Kraft's trademark-infringement suit against the restaurant chain and food retailer is pending.

Kraft Sues Cracker Barrel Over Cheese Trademark

Kraft Foods Group Inc. hit the operator of Cracker Barrel restaurants with a trademark infringement suit Friday, claiming the chain's recent move to sell packaged retail products threatens Kraft's Cracker Barrel cheese brand.


Macaroni and Cheese Box Review

This macaroni and cheese box review was inspired by a trip down the pasta aisle. I found myself amazed at all the different products.

Organic! Numbers! Bunnies!! No artificial colors and flavors!!

This was not the Kraft Mac and Cheese of my college days. Two million boxes are sold every day of this cheesy product and I decided to see if I could discern the best choice.

But, before I get into my review, we need to discuss a New York Times story on the chemicals found in boxes of mac and cheese. A consumer advocacy group found phthalates in 10 different brands (including organic) of boxed mac and cheese. Unfortunately, they didn’t say how much there was (they did say 4 times what is found in regular cheese) and so it isn’t clear if this is a health risk or how much of a health risk these products pose.

There is strong evidence that phthalates block the production of testosterone so there is reason for concern.

My thinking is that the jury is still out on this one and I wouldn’t fear macaroni and cheese boxes. But, I probably wouldn’t eat it every day as a result of this study. Do people eat this every day?

This is the STANDARD Kraft Macaroni and Cheese dinner. Somehow it has no artificial flavors, artificial preservatives, and no artificial dyes. It doesn’t have cheese either! Did you know that it is made with “cheese sauce mix”?

AAAH yes. There it is the famous dried cheese sauce mix that is so orange that I don’t need PhotoShop to make it pop.

You mix it with butter and milk and it runs 350 calories for 1/3 box. Honestly, it doesn’t taste like cheese to me at all. I don’t know what it tastes like but it is bland, salty (570mg per serving), and strange.

How did I eat this in my 20s? I was broke and I would mix tuna in it. Maybe I just didn’t notice because I was so hungry.

Kraft also has this product which includes organic pasta and cheese and has number shapes. It costs about twice as much and is 5.5 ounces instead of 7 (just two servings in this one). I was really excited to see that this product includes REAL CHEESE.

It takes twice as long to cook the pasta (about 10 minutes) and you mix in less butter and milk. It has 360 calories and 570 mg of sodium per serving.

This one tasted much better – actually like cheese! The pasta was also less mushy and more substantial. But, it was very bland and salty (again).

Annie’s is made with organic pasta but NOT ORGANIC CHEESE (but there is real cheddar cheese in the box). They do use some organic whole wheat flour in their pasta but the bunnies are not 100% whole wheat.

This one has 400 mg of sodium and 260 calories per serving and there are 2.5 servings in a box. I did notice that this one was less salty than the Kraft version and tasted like cheese. It was bland, the pasta was good, and less salty making it the best of the bunch.

I think you would probably save money and have a better experience by purchasing and cooking a decent pasta, adding some olive oil or butter, and dusting with grated Parmesan cheese and hitting it with some black pepper.

None of these boxes tasted like real mac and cheese to me and they all left me with a bitter aftertaste that I couldn’t shake.

The boxes are cheap, fun, and kids love them but I am not convinced they are a good value.

Have you tried different macaroni and cheese box brands? Have you found one that you like?

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13 Comments:

I think they are all terrible. I haven't tasted one I like yet.

Nothing like crust on the top oven baked real cheddar mac and cheese!

Linda Wills on November 5, 2017

I love Mac and cheese! I’ve had it all over the world but nothing has ever beaten the taste of Kraft Mac & Cheese for me. I grew up eating it and still love it at 67. To get fancy, cook some hamburger, add diced or stewed tomatoes irs, and then fold in the cooked Mac and cheese. Delish!

I always kept Kraft Mac and Cheese on hand when my kids were little and needed a quick supper, usually with grill Hot Dogs and apple sauce. I have always made my own with a cheese sauce. Now my son makes my recipe from scratch for his family. I recently tried Cracker Barrel oven baked Mac and Cheese with white sauce. It comes in a bag. May husband and I found it had a strange taste not very good. With left overs, I added more cheese and some pepper. It tasted better, but I won't buy it again. I looked a their web site and could not find any nutrition information. Back to my homemade, which I have been making for almost 60 years.

Mary Lou on November 5, 2017

It's just processed food-like. Knowing what I've learned over the years, I wouldn't buy this type of filler ɿood', knowing the science just cements that decision for me. Boxed ɿood' thankfully has no hold over me, taste-wise, memory-wise, money-wise or convenience-wise. With today's fabulous array of nut cheeses, plant milk and ice ɼreams', it's easy to find a substitute for cow stuff. It doesn’t take long, usually 30 days to make the adjustment. There was a time I enjoyed an occasional Kraft Mac ’N Cheese with add-ins, so I get that it’s still popular. I'm happy you profiled this popular product, Lisa it made me check to see what Dr. Greger had to say about the latest research on phthalates. Very interesting and as usual, convincing. Several of the studies point to sexual development issues for boys. No matter what I read these days it’s like M. Pollan said, ‘’eat food, mostly plants, not too much’’.

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/what-diet-best-lowers-phth…

My daughter will only eat boxed macaroni and cheese . won't go near homemade. My grandkids love homemade.

HeidiK on November 5, 2017

Its a comfort food from my chikdhood. I gave up smoking drinking and soda thus stays on the list. But I do eat it only on really bad emotional days that I need comfort.

Juliann on November 5, 2017

Sorry to say I grew up on Kraft’s also and still love it to this day - although I seldom eat it. We always mixed it with cream of Mushroom soup, tuna and peas and baked it - my kids (adults) still love it too. The one at Trader Joe’s is supposed to be great and one of their best seller’s - will try it one of these days. Like I said - the stuff is not that good for you but honestly I have made my own and still like Kraft better. Makes no sense I know -must be a child hangover thing.

Jackie Summerville on November 5, 2017

Horizon makes an excellent organic and non organic Mac and cheese.

We don’t have those in Canada but I always grab a few boxes when we are in the states.

I know you are talking about the dry mix in the boxes but I just wanted to say that when I need something good (that I didn’t make) it is always Amy’s brand frozen mac & cheese.

You can microwave it but we only do it in the oven. 35-40 min at 375 and it will totally fill me up, plus you get all the golden brown crispy crunchy stuff. My kids love it more than any other m & c from the store. We have it with a raw mixed-vegetable platter, usually carrot sticks, cucumbers, yellow peppers, & red grape tomatoes in the middle, which looks really pretty too :) Oh- Amy’s now makes a low-sodium version, which I like also but it is definitely not as crave-worthy as the original one. Way better than the box kind!!

NYYgirl on November 5, 2017

As a kid, I loved to put the Mac & Cheese ɼheese powder mix' on my popcorn. Memories . . .

I have made Aldi's organic brand a few times in the past as they also sell the plain noodles separately and I add a cup of them to make it less cheesy for my grandson. Though I think his favorite it just plain noodles with coconut butter.

I just ordered a few (3) boxes from Fiber Gourmet which advertises lower calorie, higher fiber pasta than regular, so we'll see how it tastes.

Beth on September 13, 2020

Have you ever tried the Velveeta? Instead of a cheese-y powder it is a cheese-y liquid in a pouch. About the same color as the Kraft. you would probably not like the look of it! haha But when I need a comfort food. it hits the spot! -)


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By Victoria Slind-Flor – Feb 6, 2013

Zimmer Holdings Inc. was told to pay $70 million to Stryker Corp. for infringing patents related to a device that removes damaged tissue and cleans bones during joint-replacement surgery.

Zimmer infringed three Stryker patents, a federal jury in Stryker’s hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan, said yesterday. The jurors found that a 25 percent royalty rate should apply to covered sales of infringing Zimmer products.

The jury also found the infringement was willful, meaning the U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker can further increase the award.

Stryker sued Zimmer in December 2010, claiming its patents were infringed by Zimmer’s Pulsavac Plus wound debridement system.

The case is Stryker Corp. v. Zimmer Inc., 1:10-cv-01223, U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan.

‘IPhone’ Owner in Brazil ‘Open’ to Selling Rights to Name

The owner of the iPhone trademark in Brazil, IGB Eletronica SA, said it would consider selling the naming rights to Apple Inc.

“We’re open to a dialogue for anything, anytime,” Eugenio Emilio Staub, chairman of IGB, said in an interview in Sao Paulo, adding that the company hasn’t been contacted by Apple. “We’re not radicals.”

IGB’s Gradiente brand filed to register the trademark in 2000 and was awarded the rights in 2008. While Apple has sold its globally known mobile phone in Brazil for several years, Gradiente started selling its iPhone in December.

Folha de S.Paulo newspaper reported yesterday that the institute responsible for granting trademarks in Brazil confirmed that the exclusive rights to the name for mobile phones still belong to Gradiente, without saying where it got the information. The decision, originally set to be published yesterday, will be announced on Feb. 13. Staub said he hasn’t been informed of any decisions regarding the trademark.

Marcelo Chimento, the spokesman for the institute known as INPI, confirmed in a telephone interview that a ruling had been made, though he declined to disclose the decision. He said it’s “difficult” to grant approval to Apple’s request to use the trademark.

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling declined to comment.

Google Faces New EU Antitrust Complaint From Technology Group

Google Inc. faces another antitrust complaint from a group of rivals as it seeks to settle the European Commission’s two- year probe into claims its search results discriminate against competitors.

ICOMP, a coalition including Microsoft Corp., said it submitted a new dossier to the European Commission on Jan. 30, alleging that the world’s largest search engine obtained its dominance through unfair agreements with other companies in the Internet and advertising industry.

“By creating an illegal network of exclusive relationships with these important partners, Google achieved its key objective: gaining scale for itself while preventing its rivals from doing the same,” ICOMP said in a statement on its website.

Google last week submitted an offer to regulators to settle the antitrust probe after Joaquin Almunia asked the Mountain View, California-based company to January to address allegations that the company promotes its own specialist search-services, copies rivals’ travel and restaurant reviews, and has agreements with websites and software developers that stifle competition in the advertising industry. He first told Google in May that he wanted to settle the case.

If regulators decide that the company’s concessions could allay antitrust concerns, they can send it to rivals and customers for comments. If this market test is successful, the EU can make the commitments legally binding. Such a settlement would avoid possible fines against Google.

Microsoft is among ICOMP members that already complained to the EU about Google’s behavior. The Brussels-based commission confirmed today it received the ICOMP complaint last week.

“We continue to work co-operatively with the commission,” said Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, on the new complaint.

ICOMP members Foundem, Hot-Map.com and Streetmap.co.uk previously asked regulators to investigate whether Google’s search results unfairly shut out rival products.

Kraft Sues Cracker Barrel Old Country Store for Infringement

Kraft Foods Group Inc., producer of Jello, Cheez Whiz and Planters Peanuts, sued a Tennessee restaurant chain for trademark infringement.

The suit is related to a licensing agreement Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. signed with Smithfield Foods Inc.’s John Morrell Food unit in November 2012.

Kraft, based in Northfield, Illinois, objects to the license agreement, saying that the sale of ready-to-eat food products under the restaurant chain’s “Cracker Barrel” mark will encroach on its business and cause customer confusion.

Kraft has used its Cracker Barrel brand for cheese since 1954, and said in its complaint that until now, the restaurant chain has “maintained a distance from Kraft both with respect to goods sold and channels of trade used.”

The company seeks a court declaration that any use by the restaurant chain of the “Cracker Barrel” mark in connection with food products sold through third-party retail food channels would constitute trademark infringement.

Lebanon, Tennessee-based Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is “reviewing and evaluating” the court papers and “may comment in the future,” company spokeswoman Jeanne Ludington said in an e-mail yesterday.

Kraft said that over the past six decades, it has sold more than $1 billion worth of cheese products under the Cracker Barrel mark, and that the products are sold in all 50 states.

The company did license its brand to Frito Lay Inc. for cheese-flavored potato chips and pretzels. Kraft claims its “Cracker Barrel” mark is “vital” to the company and that it would suffer irreparable harm if the restaurant chain is able to go ahead with the license arrangement.

Kraft contends that because the restaurant chain has never sold any products under the “Cracker Barrel” brand anywhere other than its combination restaurant/country store properties, it has never established the right to the mark for use in retail sales.

Smithfield and Morrell aren’t parties to the suit.

In addition to a court order barring the use of its “Cracker Barrel” mark for sale of food products, Kraft also asked for awards of litigation costs and attorney fees. Kraft also requested a court order mandating that the restaurant chain conduct national advertising that will prominently disavow a connection with Kraft.

The case is Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc., 1:13-cv-00780, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

Bridgestone Trademark Infringement Win Upheld by Chinese Court

Bridgestone Corp. said in a statement that it has won a trademark suit against a Chinese competitor.

The tire maker said it successfully sued Guangzhou Bolex Tyre Ltd. in the Tianjin Binhai New Area People’s Court in March 2011. Tokyo-based Bridgestone had objected to Bolex’s sale of tires under the “Gemstone” trademark, saying it was too familiar to “Bridgestone.”

Bolex filed an appeal to the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court, which upheld the lower court’s ruling, Bridgestone said.

The Japanese tire company said Bolex was ordered to quit making and selling Gemstone tires and to pay damages to Bridgestone.

Bolex didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.

Tetris Wins Order Barring Competitor Infringing Computer Game

Tetris Holding Co., which holds the rights to the popular computer game Tetris, won a copyright case against a New Jersey- based game company.

The suit was filed in federal court in Trenton, New Jersey, in December 2009 against Xio Interactive Inc. Tetris objected to Xio’s Mino game, which it said was “brazenly” copied by the New Jersey company’s game.

In her Jan. 30 order, U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson barred the production, sale and licensing of Xio’s Mino. She dismissed trade-dress infringement, and unfair competition charges against Xio.

In May 2012 Judge Wolfson found that Xio had infringed the Tetris copyrights. Although Xio had acknowledged copying elements of the Tetris game, the company had argued that the elements it copied were functional and not entitled to protection under U.S. copyright law.

The judge disagreed. In that ruling she said Xio had “infringed a substantial amount of the overall copyrighted work.” Elements that Xio had argued were functional were, instead, “aesthetic choices designers of Tetris made to show or express game play.”

The case is Tetris Holding LLLC v. Xio Interactive Inc., 3:09-cv-06115, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Trenton).

Trade Secrets/Industry Espionage

Sentence in Goodyear Trade-Secret Case Too Lenient, Court Rules

A federal appeals court affirmed the convictions of two men accused of stealing trade secrets from Akron, Ohio’s Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant and said the trial court gave them too lenient a sentence.

Sean Edward Howley and Clark Alan Roberts were convicted of trade secret theft in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee. They were found to have taken trade secrets related to the production of large steel-reinforced tires used on earthmoving machines.

The two men worked for a company that supplied some parts for Goodyear’s tire-assembly machine, according to court papers. When they came to repair some Goodyear machines in May 2007, they brought an unauthorized camera and took photos of some proprietary technology with the aim of passing them to a Chinese competitor of the tire company.

In December, the two were convicted of trade secret theft and wire fraud, and each was sentenced to four months of home confinement, 150 hours of community service and four years of probation.

Howley and Roberts appealed. Yesterday, the appeals court affirmed the conviction and agreed with government prosecutors that the sentences the two received were “procedurally unreasonable.”

The trial court had found that the government failed to establish any real loss suffered by Goodyear. The appeals court said this finding “seemed at odds with the defendants’ convictions for stealing property that had ‘independent economic value.’”

In returning the case to the trial court for resentencing, the appeals court said that while “an estimate of a substantial loss necessarily will increase” the range of the sentence, it wouldn’t override the court’s duty “to exercise discretion in deciding what sentences to impose on the defendants.”


Entrees

Nice work. You just found copycat recipes for all of your favorite famous foods! Bestselling author and TV host, Todd Wilbur shows you how to easily duplicate the taste of iconic dishes and treats at home. See if Todd has hacked your favorite entrees here. New recipes added every week.

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Menu Description: "Grilled chicken breasts topped with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil pesto, and a lemon garlic sauce.”

This Olive Garden grilled chicken margherita recipe starts with a quick 30-minute brine to bless the chicken with flavor and juiciness. While the chicken is marinating and then grilling, you’ll have plenty of time to make the basil pesto and lemon garlic sauce knockoffs.

When the chicken comes off the grill, top it with cheese and pop under the broiler for a nice melt. Once plated, the chicken is doused with the delicious lemon garlic sauce, topped with pesto, and dressed up with colorful grape tomatoes.

And if you’re into it, I’ve also worked up a clone for the side served with this entree at Olive Garden—Parmesan zucchini. The hack is in the Tidbits below if you’d like to include this simple side with your copycat plate, like they do in the restaurant.

This recipe makes four servings, which is four lunch-size servings at Olive Garden, or two dinner portions. Now, how hungry are you?

The problem with adding sauce to fried food is that the wet sauce makes the crunchy fried food not so crunchy. Panda Express manages to keep the crispy beef in Beijing Beef crispy even though it may be sitting for over 20 minutes in the sauce on its way to a hungry you. My early attempts at hacking my favorite dish at the massive Chinese food chain all resulted in gummy, soggy beef pieces that were more like flat dumplings than the delicious, crunchy strips of joy they were meant to be.

Then finally, on one batch, I decided to fry the coated beef for much longer than I intuitively felt it should be cooked, resulting in dark browning on the cornstarch coating and an even darker piece of meat beneath it. I anticipated a beef jerky experience, but when I took a bite, I found it to be delicious! It wasn’t tough and chewy as I expected it to be. And when this seemingly overcooked beef was stirred into the sauce, it stayed crispy until served, just like the real thing.

Now, with the soggy beef problem solved, we’ve finally got a good hack for this famous sweet-and-spicy dish.

Menu Description: “Grilled chicken topped with a lemon garlic butter sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, and capers.”

For many years this traditional chicken dish has been a top choice at the nation’s largest Italian restaurant chain, and a Top Secret Recipes hack is long overdue. Brined chicken breast fillets are grilled and topped with a lemon butter sauce made with garlic, sundried tomatoes, and capers in this copycat clone that will fool even the biggest Olive Garden fans.

Two large chicken breasts get sliced into four fillets here, so you’ll have either four lunch-size portions or two double-sized dinner meals. And if you need even more servings, you can easily double up the recipe.

In the Tidbits, I’ve added a quick recipe for the optional side of Parmesan-crusted zucchini served with the actual dish if you want to make an even more authentic clone.

Craving more dishes from Olive Garden? Check out my copycat recipes here.

Three components must be mastered to properly hack this top menu pick at the country’s largest fast Chinese chain: candied nuts, honey sauce, and perfectly battered shrimp. For the candied walnuts, I came up with a technique using the oven, which means there’s no candy thermometer required and it’s a no-brainer. For the sauce, you just whisk the ingredients together in a bowl.

To make your shrimp look like the shrimp at Panda Express, you don’t want them tightly curled up when they fry. You can keep them from curling by pinching the tail end of each shrimp after it has been floured and dipping it into the batter headfirst. When you pull it out, the weight of the batter will help unfurl the shrimp a bit, and if you then lower it slowly into the oil it will mostly stay that way.

When all the shrimp have been fried, bake them in the oven so that they are crispy and warm, then toss the shrimp and the nuts in the sweet honey sauce and serve.

KFC's Chicken Pot Pie is a classic. It's packed with lots of shredded white and dark meat chicken, potatoes, peas, and carrots all of it swimming in a delicious creamy gravy and topped with a tantalizing flakey crust. It seems more like homemade food than fast food. And now it can be made at home better than ever before with this improved hack of my original recipe. The crust now has a better flavor (more butter!), and the gravy tastes closer to the original with the addition of more spices.

You can make these in ramekins or small oven-safe baking dishes, or get some recyclable aluminum pot pie pans you can find in many supermarkets. Those pans are the perfect size for four single servings, and they make cleanup easy after the feast.

Find more of my KFC copycat recipes here.

To get their Extra Crispy Chicken so crispy KFC breads the chicken two times. This double breading gives the chicken its ultra craggy exterior and extra crunch, which is a different texture than the less crispy Original Recipe Chicken that’s breaded just once and pressure fried.

As with my KFC Original Recipe hack, we must first brine the chicken to give it flavor and moisture all the way through, like the real thing, then the chicken is double breaded and deep fried until golden brown. KFC uses small chickens which cook faster, but small chickens can be hard to find. If your chicken parts are on the large side, they may not cook all the way through in the 12 to 15 minutes of frying I’m specifying here. To be sure your chicken is cooked, start frying with the thickest pieces, like the breasts, then park them in a 300-degree oven while you finish with the smaller pieces. This will keep the chicken warm and crispy, and more importantly, ensure that they are cooked perfectly all the way through.

On my CMT show Top Secret Recipe I chatted with Winston Shelton, a long-time friend of KFC founder Harland Sanders. Winston saw the Colonel's handwritten secret recipe for the Original Recipe chicken, and he told me one of the secret ingredients is Tellicherry black pepper. It's a more expensive, better-tasting black pepper that comes from the Malabar coast in India, and you should use it here if you can find it. Winston pulled me aside and whispered this secret to me when he thought we were off-camera, but our microphones and very alert cameramen caught the whole thing, and we aired it.

I first published this hack in Even More Top Secret Recipes, but recently applied some newly acquired secrets and tips to make this much-improved version of one of the most familiar fried chicken recipes in the world.

This recipe was our #2 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).

It was only a matter of time before the spicy fried chicken made famous in Nashville, Tennessee at shops like Prince's Hot Chicken Shack and Hattie B's would find its way into the mainstream. A dish this good is never contained forever, and KFC became the first fast food chain to give the recipe national exposure. A test run of the new spicy chicken in Pittsburgh was the most successful product test in KFC's recent history.

The original dish from Nashville is made with crispy fried chicken that's doused with a top-secret spicy chili sauce and served on sliced white bread with dill pickles on top. KFC's version is served with just pickles, no bread (a biscuit on the side instead), and is made by soaking the chain's Extra Crispy Fried Chicken with the oily chili sauce from a squirt bottle. Since there isn't any water in the sauce, just oil, the chicken stays crispy, regardless of how much sauce is applied.

To make a home version, you first need to make some chicken, either using my hack for KFC Extra Crispy Chicken, or by baking or frying some of the pre-breaded chicken pieces you can find frozen in just about every grocery store. While the chicken cooks, make the sauce and pour it into a squirt bottle or spouted measuring cup. Apply it to your chicken when it's done (shake it or stir it first!), then top it with dill pickle slices.

Braised Beef Pasta Menu Description: “Slow-simmered meat sauce with tender braised beef and Italian sausage, tossed with ruffled pappardelle pasta and a touch of alfredo sauce—just like Nonna’s recipe.”

It’s a mistake to assume that a recipe posted to a restaurant chain’s website is the real recipe for the food served there. I’ve found this to be the case with many Olive Garden recipes, and this one is no exception. A widely circulated recipe that claims to duplicate the chain’s classic Bolognese actually originated on Olive Garden’s own website, and if you make that recipe you’ll be disappointed when the final product doesn’t even come close to the real deal. I won’t get into all the specifics of the things wrong with that recipe (too much wine, save some of that for drinking!), but at first glance it’s easy to see that a few important ingredients found in traditional Bolognese sauces are conspicuously missing, including milk, basil, lemon, and nutmeg.

I incorporated all those missing ingredients into this new hack recipe, tweaked a few other things, and then tested several methods of braising the beef so that it comes out perfectly tender: covered, uncovered, and a combo. The technique I settled on was cooking the sauce covered for 2 hours, then uncovered for 1 additional hour so that the sauce reduces and the beef transforms into a fork-flakeable flavor bomb. Yes, it comes from Olive Garden, but this Bolognese is better than any I’ve had at restaurants that charge twice as much, like Rao’s where the meat is ground, not braised, and they hit you up for $30.

As a side note, Olive Garden’s menu says the dish comes with ruffled pappardelle pasta, but it’s actually mafaldine, a narrower noodle with curly edges (shown in the top right corner of the photo). Pappardelle, which is the traditional pasta to serve with Bolognese, is a very wide noodle with straight edges, and it’s more familiar than mafaldine, so perhaps that’s why the menu fudges this fact. In the end, it doesn’t really matter which pasta you choose. Just know that a wide noodle works best. Even fettuccine is good here.

For the little bit of alfredo sauce spooned into the middle of the dish I went with a premade bottled sauce to save time. You can also make this from scratch if you like (I’ve got a great hack for Olive Garden’s Alfredo Sauce), but it’s such a small amount that premade sauce in either a chilled tub from the deli section or in a bottle off the shelf works great here.

This recipe was our #3 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1) KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).

And browse my other Olive Garden clone recipes here.

Re-creating the signature cooking style at the country's most famous fondue chain required hacking the flavorful simmering broth in which all the proteins and vegetables are cooked. This was tricky since only some of the prep is performed tableside at the restaurant.

When a server brought the warm broth to my table, it was already seasoned with a few mystery ingredients. The pot was left alone to heat up on the center burner, which was the perfect time for me to scoop out ½ cup of the liquid and seal it up in a small jar to take back to the lab for further analysis. When the server came back to the table after five minutes, she added a few more ingredients to the pot: fresh garlic, mushrooms, green onions, Burgundy wine, and black pepper. I took mental notes on the amounts and wrote them into my phone before I forgot.

The server told me the hot liquid base was vegetable broth, so I figured some Swanson in a can would do. But later, after further taste-testing, I found the broth in my stolen sample to be more savory than any of the canned broths I tried. I then made a broth by dissolving a vegetable bouillon cube in boiling water and found the flavor to be a much closer match to the sample I had swiped. The bouillon is also cheaper than the broth, and I'm okay with that.

After a few tweaks to the seasoning additions, I had a good Melting Pot broth recipe that could stand up to any taste test. Use this to cook chopped veggies, chicken, beef, and shrimp. And if you want the complete Melting Pot experience, you're going to need my hacks for the six dipping sauces. So here you go: Cocktail Sauce, Curry Sauce, Gorgonzola Port, Green Goddess, Ginger Plum, and Teriyaki.

This recipe is designed for a 2-quart fondue pot. If you have a 3-quart pot and would like a bigger fondue party (lucky you), refer to the Tidbits below for that adjustment.

Check out my Melting Pot Cheddar Cheese and Traditional Swiss Fondue recipes in "Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step".

Menu Description: “Two lightly fried parmesan-breaded chicken breasts are smothered with Olive Garden’s homemade marinara sauce and melted Italian cheeses. We serve our Chicken Parmigiana with a side of spaghetti for dinner.”

Chicken parmigiana is a forever favorite, and it’s not a difficult dish to whip up at home. But for it to taste like the Olive Garden signature entree, we’ll need to take some very specific steps.

Olive Garden’s chicken is salty and moist all the way through, so we must first start by brining the chicken. Give yourself an extra hour for this important marinating step. The marinara sauce used on the chicken is an Olive Garden specialty and no bottled sauce compares, so we’ll make our own from scratch using canned crushed tomatoes and the formula below.

While the sauce cooks, filling your house with its intoxicating aroma, the chicken is breaded and browned. When the marinara is done, top the chicken with the sauce and mozzarella and stick it under your hot broiler until bubbling.

Hopefully, everyone at your house is hungry, because the Olive Garden dinner portion is two chicken fillets, and this recipe will yield a total of four 2-piece servings. Add a small serving of spaghetti on the side, topped with more of the delicious sauce, and you'll have a perfect match to the restaurant plate.

Can't get enough Olive Garden? Click here for more of my copycat recipes.


Frequently asked questions:

This casserole can definitely be made in advance and stored in the freezer for another day. I would wait on adding the Ritz cracker topping till you bake it so they don’t lose their buttery crunch. Prepare the casserole as directed and thaw overnight in the refrigerator when you are ready to enjoy!

I really only have one note for this recipe (listed in the printable as well). The very best part of this Squash Casserole recipe is how forgiving the ratios of squash to topping are. I have used anywhere from 7 – 10 cups of squash in it without much fuss. I might add slightly less sugar with the lower end of the spectrum though. It does have a sweet and buttery taste. The Ritz cracker topping just completes it with all that crunchy goodness next to the tender squash. Enjoy, friends!

This squash casserole recipe is one of my favorite side dishes to make at a large holiday gathering or potluck. There usually isn’t an overabundance of people trying to bring their favorite vegetable dish, so that works out perfectly! If making at home for my family, I like to serve it with a simple and meaty main dish like roasted chicken or pork tenderloin. Throw in a simple side salad, and you’ll have a beautiful meal that looks like you slaved in the kitchen all day!


Cracker Barrel Customers Sue

Twenty-one people filed a $100 million federal lawsuit against Cracker Barrel restaurants Thursday, accusing the nationwide chain of widespread racism, from segregating black customers in the smoking section to denying them service.

It was the largest civil rights lawsuit against a restaurant chain since Denny's settled a $46 million discrimination lawsuit in 1994.

The suit, to be filed Thursday in federal court in Rome, Ga., accuses Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. of systematic discrimination and documents acts of alleged racism in 175 cities in 30 states.

The restaurant chain, which for years has been known for its country store motif and homestyle cooking, owns and operates a chain of 450 restaurants in 37 states.

Cracker Barrel spokeswoman Julie Davis said the charges are false and that the company responds to the concerns of all customers.

"Our mission is pleasing people and that means all people," she said. "We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind."

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The plaintiffs are represented by one of the nation's largest civil rights law firms, Gordon, Silberman, Wiggins & Childs.

"The descriptions of the treatment endured by African American customers in these restaurants is appalling," said attorney David Sanford.

"It can't be the case that Cracker Barrel doesn't know about it," he told a news conference Thursday. "We have enough evidence right now to suggest that Cracker Barrel, to the very highest level, is responsible."

Much of the lawsuit focuses on the statements of black customers, recounting how they were forced to wait while white customers were promptly seated.

In one such case, Chandra Harmon, a resident of Smyrna, Ga., says she arrived at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Chattanooga, Tenn., at 9:48 p.m. and was told by a server that the restaurant was about to close. At 10 p.m., Harmon watched as four white men were allowed into the restaurant. Through the window, she saw them eating and drinking.

"We had hungry children and he still refused to serve us," Harmon said of the incident in July, referring to the manager.

Later, the manager insisted the men were seated before Harmon arrived.

"There are perhaps thousands more African-Americans who have been denied service, treated rudely by servers and hosts, and subjected to racial slurs at Cracker Barrel restaurants," said Grant Morris, another attorney. "This is the tip of the iceberg."

The lawsuit also draws upon the statements of Judith Robertson, a former executive coordinator at Cracker Barrel's headquarters in Lebanon, Tenn. Robertson, who is white, was responsible for responding to complaints made by customers on the company's hot line.

In a statement, Robertson says the company received 300 calls describing discriminations against minority customers, many more than received by other customers. She said those calls were often discussed, and then dismissed casually, by Cracker Barrel managers.

© MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

First published on September 9, 2004 / 1:31 PM

© 2004 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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