Via an unspecified blogger at Freakonomics, who riffs on the possible comfort food-recession link, United Press International reports an upturn in sales of boxed macaroni and cheese. Overall, mac and cheese sales were up 10% in 2007. The article also notes that about 50% of children in the US will eat mac and cheese within the next two weeks, compared with only 30% of kids doing the same back in 1984.
The sales increase is explained, at least partially, by Kraft's introduction of microwavable cups of mac and cheese. Not surprisingly. But I'd also guess that the change seen in consumption over the past 24 years is related to the number of non-Kraft products now available (I'm sure there's data that could tell me that, but I'm also sure it's proprietary). I've got some Kraft in my pantry, sure, but I also have a box of fancy, organic mac and cheese that makes me feel like I'm watching out for Dixon's health when I make it for him (he hates it, and much prefers Kraft, but that's another story).
Also, I think the mac and cheese "brand" as a whole has shifted a bit, what with all the fancy comfort food restaurants out there these days. I'm pretty sure lobster mac and cheese wasn't on many (any?) menus back in '84.
There is a third explanation for the product growth. My sister loves mac and cheese. She was born in 1984. Coincidence? You decide.