a heinz ketchup bottle with red background

Ketchup. From tomatoes.

But it has not always been glory. Ketchup sales also experienced significant lows. This immediately also meant problems for market leader Heinz (now Kraft Heinz). For instance, the then glass bottle had numerous practical problems. Maybe you still recognise the bottle and you will also remember that you always had great problems getting the thick sauce out of the bottle. There are plenty of tricks, but the most well-known are to use a knife to get the ketchup flowing. Or another option, the well-known ‘smash on the bottom’ method. This worked. But with either method, once you got it going, you produced a flying eruption of ketchup that could land anywhere. But not only the first time you used the ketchup was a problem. The last time was also a problem. Getting that last bit of ketchup out of the bottle was a matter of shaking and, above all, a lot of patience. The problem is mainly due to the fact that ketchup flows better from the bottle when it is at room temperature, but most people keep the ketchup bottle in the fridge.

Heinz tried to translate these consumer irritations into their product branding. They even ran a campaign with the theme ‘Good things are worth waiting for’. Although the ad didn’t solve the problem, we have to appreciate the rethinking of the problems of the bottle from a marketing point of view.

Problem solved

Eventually, Heinz discovered a way to take the friction out of ketchup consumption. In 2002, Heinz introduced their new innovation: the upside-down squeeze bottle. This turned the ketchup market on its head, but it was far from innovative. Shampoo makers, among others, had been using this reverse design for years.

The upside-down squeeze bottle allowed people to apply the sauce to their products effortlessly, and that last bit came out much easier too. And with an ingeniously clever cap, the sauce explosion was also solved. The advantages of the bottle went far beyond its ease of use. With the new design, Heinz put ketchup back on the map for consumers. What ketchup lessons can we learn from this?

Ketchup lesson 1:

Sometimes you don’t need large-scale research to discover innovative product ideas. Look to other industries for similar problems and solutions.

Ketchup lesson 2:

People will always look for the path of least resistance. Make it easy for users by removing friction all along their journey.

Okay, now on to our grilled cheese sandwich. With curry sauce. Sorry.