After two years of hosting focus groups and interviewing quick-serve customers, Heinz finally has the answer to changing consumer ketchup demands.

The new Heinz Dip & Squeeze design “was really a package pulled together by the needs and insights of our consumers today,” says David Sykes, senior brand manager for Heinz Ketchup.

The company’s research revealed that a full two-thirds of consumers prefer dipping to squeezing.

“Because of things like chicken fingers, consumers have become used to having dipping sauces,” says Ron Paul, president and CEO of Technomic. “Heinz wanted to get into the dipping sauce category if you will, and that requires a different package.”

Still, it was important to Heinz to maintain the squeezing functionality of its traditional packets.

“There’s a lot of applications out there where squeezing is necessary,” Sykes says. “If the consumer wants to squeeze ketchup onto their sandwich, for example, that’s still very important.”

And so, the new Dip & Squeeze package—the first change in Heinz’s ketchup packet in 42 years—was developed. Customers can either peel back the lid for easy dipping, or tear off the edge of the package (where the white cap is pictured on the label) and then squeeze out the ketchup as normal.

In addition, each package contains three times as much ketchup as the old packets do—a design change that was incorporated because Heinz discovered the average consumer uses three of the 9-gram packets for one order of medium or large fries.

“I think it’s just a better experience for the consumer, especially the idea of having two different ways to use it,” says Ron Romanik, editor in chief of Package Design Magazine. “That hasn’t been seen before.”

Romanik also points to the packets’ labeling strategy as a success.

“I like the graphic showing pretty obviously how to open it and the two different ways,” he says. “It seems like consumers will get it right away.”

He says Heinz’s innovations in ketchup package design could motivate changes in other forms of foodservice packaging in the next several years.

“We’ve seen some early data that it could lead to repeat visits at restaurants because of the improvement of the consumer meal experience.”

“I think even beverages might learn something from this,” he says.

Technomic’s Paul isn’t so sure the redesign will have such a widespread effect.

“Hunt’s may be impacted, but Heinz has clearly been the branded leader,” he says. “Therefore I don’t see there’s going to be a lot of impact on other packaging.”

He does, however, see customers starting to expect more from condiment packaging—particularly mustard—if the new ketchup packets become popular.

“Until it’s on the market, it’s kind of anybody’s guess as to how consumers are going to react,” he says.

The new Heinz ketchup packets have been in test markets in the Midwest and the Southeast—where operators expressed interest in trying them—since August 2009. They’ll roll out nationwide this fall and will be available at a slight increase in price per gram when compared to the old design.

Sykes says the old packets will still be available to restaurants but that Heinz hopes the Dip & Squeeze packages will take off.

“Restaurant customers have been very positive about this new packet,” he says. “It’s something that we feel helps their systems operationally, and we’ve also seen some early data that it could lead to repeat visits at restaurants because of the improvement of the consumer meal experience.”

Quick-serve customers also have responded well to the new design so far—especially moms.

“Because of the fact that we addressed the messiness issue and that it’s easier to open, moms now feel more confident letting their kids use this package in the backseat,” Sykes says.

Package Design Magazine’s Romanik isn’t surprised at the positive response to the Dip & Squeeze packets thus far.

“The execution from my standpoint was just really perfectly done,” he says. “You see it right away and you go, ‘Why hasn’t this happened before?’ It’s the question that good design always spurs.”

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