From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Product typeSnack
OwnerKraft Heinz
Produced byOscar Mayer
CountryUnited States
Introduced1988; 35 years ago
Related brandsLunch Mates[1]

Lunchables is an American brand of food and snacks manufactured by Kraft Heinz in Chicago, Illinois, and marketed under the Oscar Mayer brand. They were initially introduced in Seattle in 1988 before being released nationally in 1989.[2] Many Lunchables products are produced in a Garland, Texas, facility, and are then distributed across the United States.[3]

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the product is sold as "Dairylea Lunchers" under the Dairylea brand, originally by Kraft Foods Inc.,[4] and currently by its successor Mondelez.[5] They originally shared the "Lunchables" name until 2023.


Lunchables was designed in 1985 by Bob Drane,[6] Christine James,[citation needed] Jeff James, Dave Wesolowski and Deborah Giarusso[citation needed] as a way for Oscar Mayer to sell more bologna and other lunch meat.[6] After organizing focus groups of American mothers, Drane discovered that their primary concern was time. Working mothers, especially, were pressed by the time constraints of fixing breakfast for their families as well as packing lunch for their children to eat at school.[7] This gave Drane the idea of creating a convenient prepackaged lunch featuring Oscar Mayer's trademark lunch meats. Crackers were substituted for bread because they would last longer in grocery coolers. The cheese was provided by Kraft when Oscar Mayer merged with Kraft in 1988. The design of the package was based on the look of an American TV dinner.[8]

The term 'Lunchables' emerged from a list of possible names for the prepackaged meal that included, among others: On-Trays, Crackerwiches, Mini Meals, Lunch Kits, Snackables, Square Meals, Walk Meals, Go-Packs, and Fun Mealz.[9]


Lunchables offers 30 different kinds of meal variety combinations, which include crackers, pizzas, chicken nuggets, small hot dogs, small burgers, nachos, subs, and wraps. A typical package, such as the cracker meal combination, contains an equal number of crackers and small slices of meat and cheese. The brand also created two versions targeting adults, by increasing the amount of food offered in each package, but these have since been discontinued.[citation needed] The first was called the "Deluxe" and contained two types of meats and cheeses, as well as a mustard condiment and a mint. The second version, called "Maxed Out" (originally "Mega Packs"), was available with 40% more food than a regular Lunchables.

Lunchables also carries an assortment of drinks and desserts. In certain meal combinations, Capri-Sun juice drinks are offered, either in a traditional flavor or the "Roarin' Waters" variant. Other drinks included are bottled water and a generic, unlabeled small can of cola; however, it was later replaced with Capri Sun drinks due to health concerns. As for dessert, some packages contain Jell-O gelatin or pudding or a candy alternative, such as Butterfingers or Reese's cups.[10] Other desserts also include Oreos, chocolate chip cookies, and vanilla cookies.[11]

As of 2022, the varieties of Lunchers available in the UK are more limited in comparison to the 1990s and 2000s. The burger, pizza, hot dog, and sub varieties are no longer sold, and the product is mostly limited to crackers, cheese, and ham or chicken although there is a Snackers brand of cheese and crackers with Cadbury Buttons, mini Fingers or Oreos. Many varieties, including turkey, ham, sausage, hot dogs, and pizza, are still sold in Canada, but they are sold by Maple Leaf Foods under the name "Lunch Mate".[12]

A line of trays called Maxed Out was eventually released that had as many as nine grams of saturated fat, or nearly an entire day's recommended maximum for children, with up to two-thirds of the maximum for sodium and 65 grams (13 tsp) of sugar. Regarding the shift toward more salt, sugar, and fat in meals for kids, Geoffrey Bible, former CEO of Philip Morris USA (prior owner of Kraft Foods), remarked that he read an article that said: "If you take Lunchables apart, the most healthy item in it is the napkin."[13]


In 1997, Lunchables came under fire for having high saturated fat and sodium content while being marketed as a healthy children's meal. For example, a single serving of Ham and Swiss Lunchables contained 1,780 milligrams of sodium, which is 47 percent of the recommended daily allowance for an adult.[14][15]

Due to the growing concern of childhood obesity, UK Lunchers opted to create healthier options for children by eliminating Capri Sun drinks and mini Daim bars and replacing the sugary drink and candy with orange juice and strawberry yogurt in 2004. The brand also began offering lower-calorie candy alternatives rather than including the standard Reese's cup in the package. Capri Sun and candy are still available as options in U.S. Lunchables.

As of 2006, eight varieties of Lunchables are considered Sensible Solution products; the brand has since excluded the exceptionally unhealthy items,[16] replacing Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Cola, Nestle Crunch bars, M&M's, and Kool-Aid Jammers with lower calorie and sugar options, such as Airheads, fruit cups, and Tropical Punch-flavored Kool-Aid mix.[citation needed]

A 2024 report by Consumer Reports found a high concentration of lead and phthalates (a chemical family known for causing hormone disruption) as well as high levels of sodium in Lunchables products. Consumer Reports asked the USDA to remove Lunchables products from the National School Lunch Program.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gieben, Kali (7 February 2014). "Kraft Foods and Oscar Mayer Lunchables: The Global Industry". Kaligieben. Archived from the original on 2018-09-08. Retrieved 2017-03-24. The main competitor that Oscar Mayer Lunchables has, is the Canadian powerhouse, Schneider's Lunchmates.
  2. ^ "About Kraft: History". Kraft. Kraft Foods Group. Archived from the original (Flash) on 2008-11-12.
  3. ^ Smith, Kevin (December 3, 2018). "Kraft Heinz Lunchables Facility in Fullerton Shutters, Leaving 248 out of Work". Orange County Register. Archived from the original on 2019-04-03. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  4. ^ "Kraft Foods - Brands - Cheese". Kraft Foods UK. Archived from the original on 2004-12-09. Retrieved 2020-06-01. Dairylea [..cheese is..] available in a variety of exciting formats [including] spreads, slices, Dunkers Lunchables™ and Strips™
  5. ^ "Our Scrummy Range". Mondelēz International, United Kingdom. Archived from the original on 2020-06-01. Retrieved 2020-06-01. Dairylea [..] UK - IRE [..] Lunchables Ham 'N' Cheese [..] Lunchables Chicken 'N' Cheese [..] Lunchables Pepperoni 'N' Cheese [..] Lunchables Streetfood Pizza
  6. ^ a b Michael Moss, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Random House Publishing Group, 2013, pp. 188–189
  7. ^ Michael Moss, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us,  Random House Publishing Group, 2013, p. 190
  8. ^ Michael Moss, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Random House Publishing Group, 2013, p.192
  9. ^ Michael Moss, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Random House Publishing Group, 2013, p.192-193
  10. ^ "Lunch Combos & Lunchables". Kraft Heinz. Archived from the original on 17 September 2018. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  11. ^ Sargent, Joshua (June 26, 2020). "The Surprising, Gross and Delicious History of Lunchables". SFGate. Hearst Communications. Archived from the original on 2023-03-14. Retrieved 2023-12-21.
  12. ^ "Products". Archived from the original on 2023-07-24. Retrieved 2023-12-21.
  13. ^ Moss, Michael (February 20, 2013). "The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2023-12-16. Retrieved 2023-12-21.
  14. ^ Hinman, Al (16 March 1997). "Lunchables May Be Munchable -- But Study Warns of Salt". CNN. Cable News Network, Inc. Archived from the original on 2021-02-28. Retrieved 2023-12-21.
  15. ^ "Packaged Meal's Salt Level Poses Blood Pressure Risk, Doctor Says". Los Angeles Times. 18 March 1997. Archived from the original on 2017-03-23. Retrieved 2017-03-23.
  16. ^ "The Cancer Project - The Five Worst Packaged Lunchbox Meals". Archived from the original on 2017-09-09. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  17. ^ Weber, Lauren (2024-04-10). "Lunchables under fire after reports of concerning lead, sodium levels". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2024-04-10.