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New Heinz ketchup packets let you dunk or squeeze

The revision of the 1968 design seeks to solve the problem of on-the-go french fry eating. Fast food innovation – or the stale taste of pointless change?

By Andrew Heining / February 5, 2010

Heinz's new Dip & Squeeze ketchup packets let on-the-go-eaters choose how they apply their favorite condiment.

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From "rip, squeeze, doh!" to "rip, dunk, mmm."

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For Heinz, that's the desired change on-the-go eaters will find when new ketchup packaging goes into circulation this fall.

It's one of those "huh, never knew that much thought went into that" tales – the quest for the perfect ketchup packet. But as a look into the world of Heinz shows, a great amount of research, trial-and-error, and thought is applied to the problem of spilled and wasted ketchup.

The old packets, we learn, originated in 1968, and have never been perfect for everyone. Whether it was the problem of one-handed opening, at-the-wheel eating, or just a personal preference for dunking, there have long been complaints with the ubiquitous single-serving condiment package.

The new design seeks to please two once-divisive camps – dunkers and squeezers. Prefer to dip your fries? Peel off the top. Want your ketchup where you put it, without spreading with a knife? Rip off the tip and squeeze away. Also appeased by the revamped packet are people like this Horizons writer's brothers, who seem to have made it a personal life quest to use as much ketchup as possible: a new Dip & Squeeze packet contains three times as much ketchup as the old design. Have at it, Charles and Greg.

The Associated Press explained some of the R&D behind the new design:

Designers found that what worked at a table didn't work where many people use ketchup packets: in the car. So two years ago, Heinz bought a used minivan for the design team members so they could give their ideas a real road test.
The team studied what each passenger needed. The driver wanted something that could sit on the armrest. Passengers wanted the choice of squeezing or dunking. Moms everywhere wanted a packet that held enough ketchup for the meal and didn't squirt onto clothes so easily.

Whether fast food fans see the new designs depends on restaurants. The new packets cost a bit more than the old style, which will continue to be produced, but whether the major chains switch is up to them.

There's no word on whether this new design comes with any green credentials. For a company with a prominent Sustainability section on its website, it's surprising that Heinz hasn't mentioned its new packets' environmental impact – good or bad. Using one packet of ketchup as opposed to three is a good start, but what about that rigid packet back? Could it be made of recycled (and recyclable) plastic? A request for comment so far hasn't been answered.

Update – A Heinz representative responds:

The new Dip & Squeeze packet contains the same amount of Ketchup as three 9 gram packets and it uses less packaging than three 9 gram packets. While the current packet is not recyclable, we continue to explore ways to make our packaging more sustainable. As a company, we are committed to sustainable initiatives and are always looking to provide consumers with innovative solutions that make their lives easier.

We're all for packaging updates that are more efficient – like what Amazon has done with once-impossible-to-open (and dangerous) gadget enclosures. Just please, Heinz, no more purple ketchup.

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What other food packaging could use a rethink? Milk? Eggs? And would you buy them? Leave a comment below, and be sure to follow us on Twitter for more stories like this – we're @CSMHorizonsBlog.

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