Nearly everyone under a certain age has some sort of memory associated with Lunchables. In our morning Takeout staff meeting, for example, editor Kevin Pang rhapsodized about the joy of building and stacking his own Lunchable sandwiches as a kid, predicting his own future as an engineer. That prediction didn’t exactly pan out, although it did foreshadow the Takeout editor’s food obsession). But kids like Kevin helped kick off the brand: As the Lunchables brand now turns 30, The Atlantic takes a look back at the still-popular school lunchbox option.
Although Cracked once dubbed them “Mom Gives Up,” Lunchables still dominate the pre-packaged lunch segment, boasting an 84 percent share of the market for kids’ “combination lunches,” continuing the steady success it’s enjoyed it was born in 1988. Despite more recent innovations like pizza and nachos options, the meat, cheese, and cracker combination is still the kids’ favorite. Not only that, sales are even surging: The Atlantic notes that Kraft Heinz sold $1.36 billion of Lunchables last year, according to one analyst, a rate “up 19 percent over a three-year time horizon.”
Possibly because these lunch kits are giving kids what they want: Previous healthy Lunchables adds like yogurt and apples have been discarded in favor of today’s lineup of Capri Sun pouches and Oreo and Kit-Kat desserts. Still, Lunchables’ protein-heavy main course likely appeals to parents looking for more ready-made fuel for their kids. And on an exceptionally busy morning, tossing a Lunchable in a backpack somehow seems infinitely easier than pulling a sandwich and snack together, making for a winning parent-kid combo over decades. For more on the Lunchables success story, check out The Atlantic today.