NEW YORK: Kraft Mac & Cheese won the Grand Prix at the 2016 Jay Chiat Awards for Strategic Excellence with its "Blind Taste Test" campaign, where the brand reformulated its recipe but did not promote this change for three months.

Handed out during the 2016 Strategy Festival organised by the 4A's (American Association of Advertising Agencies), the Chiat Awards recognise impactful campaigns that draw on breakthrough insights and the best in strategic thinking.

And as its Mac & Cheese line is a much-loved household staple, Kraft knew updating the recipe would prove controversial among consumers, even if that did involve removing artificial flavours, preservatives and dyes. (Warc subscribers can read the winning Kraft paper here, and select other winning case studies from the Chiat Awards here.)

In acknowledgement of this fact, the brand only flagged up the change on the product's ingredient label as a first step, and then waited for three months to gauge the response – over which time some 50 million boxes were sold.

With shoppers remaining silent on the subject, Kraft could be confident its experiment was a success, and so revealed customers had, unknowingly, been enjoying the same great Mac & Cheese taste, only backed by an improved recipe.

The agencies behind this initiative – which also took a Gold in the National Strategy category at the Chiat Awards – were Crispin Porter + Bogusky Boulder, Starcom and Olson Engage Chicago.

"When we're looking for a Grand Prix, we are basically looking for … a raw truth, something that shines out, is timeless, is outstanding, and really moves things forward," Sarah Watson, Chief Strategy Officer at BBH New York, and a member of the 4A's Strategy Festival Committee, said.

In claiming the top prize, Kraft bested its fellow Gold winners from the 2016 Chiat Awards, a list featuring Pedigree, the dog food, the American Cancer Society, a non-profit, and Comcast's Xfinity, the entertainment system.

Other brands securing Golds included the New York Lottery and online-delivery service Seamless. LEGOLAND Florida, the amusement park, and Turkcell, Turkey's biggest telecoms group, received equivalent honours from the jury.

"The winners of this year's awards weren't afraid to take risks and think big when creating a strategy that would resonate with audiences," said Nancy Hill, President/CEO of the 4A's.

Warc subscribers can view more than 25 entries to the 2016 Jay Chiat Awards for Strategic Excellence here.

Data sourced from 4A's; additional content by Warc staff