Macaroni and cheese may have been a staple food when you were a kid.
It may even be something you cook for your kids now.
Adult versions of macaroni and cheese are even creamier and more savory than the type you ate as a child.
It’s a beloved comfort food that quickly fills anyone’s tummy.
However, buying macaroni and cheese isn’t always cheap.
Why Is Macaroni And Cheese So Expensive? (10 Reasons)
The average price of mac and cheese is around $4.
However, some brands and boxes can cost as much as $9 or more.
Certain factors like climate problems affecting wheat, manufacturing costs, and cheese costs impact the price.
Let’s look at these factors in more detail.
1. Drought Affecting Durum Wheat
To have mac and cheese, you need noodles and to make noodles, you need durum wheat.
Durum wheat is a type of wheat that makes a certain kind of flour from which you can make pasta noodles.
The other types of wheat don’t provide quite the same texture or density to make pasta noodles.
As such, durum wheat is one of the best types of wheat to make pasta noodles.
The problem with durum wheat is that the areas in which it’s grown have been experiencing a drought.
The drought has been impacting both Canadian supplies of durum wheat and supplies in the United States.
Drought makes it impossible for wheat to grow.
It requires water to stay alive.
Drought doesn’t just impact the current harvest season either.
If it doesn’t rain, farmers cannot plant wheat seeds for next year.
They can attempt to do so, but there’s a risk that their seeds will die.
Drought has created a shortage of durum wheat.
As such, mac and cheese makers have to pay higher prices to source the wheat they need to make their noodles.
They put a higher price on their mac and cheese boxes as a result.
2. High Fuel Costs
If sourcing wheat for noodles wasn’t hard enough, macaroni and cheese makers are facing high costs in the shipping industry.
One of the problems affecting trade is high fuel costs.
Whether it’s inflation or a lack of oil supply, fuel costs have been spiking.
This impacts the price of macaroni and cheese because the manufacturers are facing high shipping prices.
Transport companies tend to charge by weight or by distance.
Some even charge for both.
If fuel costs are high, they’re going to be submitting a more expensive bill to those whose products they’re carrying.
Since macaroni and cheese manufacturers have to pay higher bills on shipping their boxes to grocery stores, they’re going to be offsetting those costs with higher prices.
It isn’t just shipping to grocery stores that make transport costs expensive either.
They also have to pay shipping fees to bring ingredients to the factory.
That includes wheat, cheese, and other ingredients.
Altogether, they are facing high duration costs, and that leads to higher prices on their mac & cheese.
3. High Demand
Another problem impacting the price of macaroni and cheese is the fact that it’s in high demand.
Macaroni and cheese is comfort food.
It’s delicious, creamy, and warm, and makes you feel good until the lactose intolerance hits.
Some might even consider macaroni and cheese the ultimate comfort food.
People are indulging in comfort a lot more these days.
Part of that comes from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to how stressful the situation was, people turned to comfort food as a way to cope.
Macaroni and cheese became one of the go-to foods for people to eat to enjoy a temporary, peaceful, moment.
Even though the pandemic has waned and people are, mostly, back to normal, the desire for comfort food hasn’t decreased.
In the face of inflation, political instability, and global political problems, a lot of people are still turning to macaroni and cheese as a way to cope.
Because it’s such in high demand, if something impacts the supply of macaroni and cheese boxes, the price is going to increase.
Macaroni and cheese is expensive because it’s in such high demand.
4. High Milk Prices
One of the most important ingredients in mac and cheese is milk.
Depending on the type of macaroni and cheese you’re making or eating, it might have a lot or just a bit of milk.
Some use milk, for example, to cook their macaroni in.
Other versions might use plant-based milk.
Another vital part of making macaroni and cheese is the cheese.
Cheese is also a dairy product.
As such, when something impacts the price of milk and dairy products, it’s also going to impact the price of mac and cheese.
Unfortunately, there is a slew of problems affecting dairy farmers.
One of the most pressing is drought.
Drought has impacted farmers that grow wheat, corn, and other types of grain for feed.
Since they haven’t been able to produce as much feed, it means there are high prices on livestock feed.
Ranchers have to spend more money to acquire the feed they need to keep their dairy cows alive and healthy.
Since they’re taking on higher costs, they sell their milk products at higher prices.
Macaroni and cheese companies then have to take on higher costs.
To cover their costs, they sell their mac and cheese at more expensive prices.
5. Labor Costs
Labor costs certainly play a role in making macaroni and cheese expensive as well.
There are several steps involved in making commercial mac and cheese.
First, a set of laborers need to make the pasta.
Then another set of laborers needs to make the cheese.
Finally, the cheese needs to go through some other processing to make it long-lasting.
Those ingredients eventually combine to either make a complete mac and cheese meal or sit separately to allow those at home to make it themselves.
Either way, making mac and cheese takes a lot of effort.
Laborers are also looking to earn higher wages.
As everything becomes more expensive, they’re pressing their employers to increase their wages, so they can afford to keep living.
Some companies have put their employees first and given them raises.
The unfortunate consequence of raising wages is that increases labor costs.
If the costs are too high, the company will need to raise the price of its food to compensate.
6. Real Cheese Versus Powdered Cheese
One of the main differences between different brands of macaroni and cheese is whether they use real cheese or powdered cheese.
While powdered cheese may start as real cheese, it tends to go under some intense processing to make it last longer.
Kraft, one of the biggest names in macaroni and cheese, uses powdered cheese.
Other brands prefer to use real cheese even though it doesn’t last as long.
These other brands also tend to have more expensive prices as a result.
Part of that reason is that cheese doesn’t always last that long.
They’re at risk of wasting their supplies if they can’t push their products out the door fast enough.
If their cheese goes bad, it’s wasted money on their part.
Higher prices help them survive.
Real cheese is more expensive than fake or processed cheese because it’s a dairy product.
Dairy products can become quite expensive when problems affect dairy cows.
If there’s a shortage of dairy products, for example, the cheese will be expensive.
Anything that uses cheese, real or processed, is going to have higher prices.
Macaroni and cheese that uses real cheese will thus have a higher price.
7. Gourmet Mac And Cheese
While you can always enjoy some mac and cheese right out of the box, that tends to be cheap, standard, mac and cheese.
There are also gourmet macaroni and cheese options that are far more expensive.
Gourmet macaroni and cheese essentially means the dish is high-quality.
It might use a rare type of cheese.
It might add in slices of steak or other expensive types of meat.
There may even be expensive spices, vegetables, or other ingredients that make the meal much more than just macaroni and cheese.
These are dishes you usually find at restaurants.
Some even specialize in making gourmet macaroni and cheese.
Gourmet mac and cheese is expensive because it usually includes more expensive ingredients.
There’s also the niche factor at play.
Almost everyone loves mac and cheese, but if you’re making macaroni and cheese that’s spicy, that’s only going to appeal to a certain audience.
That specific audience is often willing to pay more because you make a high-quality product that appeals to them.
Macaroni and cheese is expensive when it’s a gourmet variety.
8. Premium Spices
Another reason mac and cheese is expensive is that sometimes it uses premium spices.
Kraft, in fact, recently changed their ingredients.
To stay away from artificial dyes, they’ve started using spices to give their noodles and cheese some color.
Other macaroni and cheese brands may do the same.
Using spices for color is a bit more expensive than using artificial dyes.
Since it makes their processing costs a bit more expensive, the mac and cheese maker will increase the price of their products.
Other mac and cheese companies use premium spices to give their noodles a flavor unlike anything else.
They want their recipes to have a distinctive flavor that will make people keep buying their mac and cheese.
Depending on what spice they use and how much of it, their manufacturing costs may be quite high.
They have higher prices as a result.
9. Vegan Versions
With the rise of vegan diets, some mac and cheese companies are looking to bring vegans into the fold.
Since vegans don’t eat dairy products, they’ve had to switch out cheese with something plant-based.
That might mean making a kind of cheese from plants or using something else that gives the same sort of creamy texture.
Making those sorts of ingredients isn’t cheap.
Since vegan dishes tend to be more wholesome than synthetic, it ultimately means higher manufacturing costs.
With higher costs come higher prices.
10. Box Or Batch Size
A final reason macaroni and cheese is expensive comes down to the size of the box that you’re buying or the batch that you’re making.
Mac and cheese companies make a variety of different sizes.
Some make boxes suitable for a single person to eat.
Others make boxes suitable for the entire family.
The bigger boxes are more expensive since they have more noodles and cheese in them.
The same goes for making a batch of mac and cheese at home.
If you’re only making a single bowl, your ingredients are going to be relatively cheap.
However, if you’re making a huge batch to feed a large family, then your ingredients are going to be expensive.
You simply need more to make more and that requires more stuff.
Mac and cheese is a delectable comfort food that is a joy to eat.
However, problems affecting durum wheat, dairy, and other aspects have driven up the price of macaroni and cheese.