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.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Fried Beer Exists—and We Have Texas to Thank (or Blame) for It

You can have your beer and eat it, too.
You can have your beer and eat it, too.
Kristy, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

For anyone who thinks beer can qualify as a meal, we have some non-scientific evidence to support your claim: it’s shaped like ravioli, it tastes like a soft pretzel, and it’s filled with warm, yeasty deliciousness.

It’s deep-fried beer.

The story behind this culinary triumph began more than 10 years ago at a bar in Texas, where Mark Zable and his wife were scanning another uninspired menu with the same few finger foods. Zable made an offhand comment about how the bar should offer fried beer, and the couple realized it wasn’t such a bad idea—especially for the state fair.

Zable, a corporate recruiter by day, was no stranger to fair fare. As he told NPR, his father had opened a Belgian waffle stand at Texas’s state fair in the 1960s, and Zable himself assumed control after about 30 years. He experimented with new items to enter into the Big Tex Choice Awards food competition—sweet jalapeño corn dog shrimp and chocolate-covered strawberry waffle balls were two of his innovations—but nothing had won him a prize … yet.

Though the concept of fried beer was wacky enough to show real promise, execution proved difficult. Dropping liquid into a deep-fryer is a good way to get splattered with boiling oil, and Zable spent more than two years trying to devise an edible vessel that could both contain the beer and protect the chef. Finally, his 4-year-old son inspired a new angle, and Zable landed on a flawless design. Though Zable’s been tight-lipped on the details of that recipe, the Toronto Star reports that it’s essentially soft pretzel dough pressed into a ravioli-like pocket, filled with Guinness, and plopped into the deep-fryer for 15 to 20 seconds.

“It tastes great,” Zable told NPR. “Tastes just like eating a pretzel with a beer.”

Actual deep-fried beer from the 2010 State Fair of Texas.David Berkowitz, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

At last, Zable’s ambitious creation was ready for its debut at Texas’s 2010 state fair. He faced some tough competition at the Big Tex Choice Awards—including fried frozen margaritas, fried lemonade, and fried club salad—but even the other edible beverages were no match for Zable’s savory fusion of beer and bread. He took home the award for “Most Creative,” while “Texas Fried Fritos Pie” clinched “Best Taste.” Together, they’re a match made in state fair heaven.

[h/t NPR]