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Heinz dips into zeitgeist for packaging inspiration

Designed to be used on the go, Heinz’s new ketchup packet has a recessed cup for dipping and a tear-off end for squeezing. Designed to be used on the go, Heinz’s new ketchup packet has a recessed cup for dipping and a tear-off end for squeezing. (H.J. Heinz Co. via Associated Press)
By Sarah Skidmore
Associated Press / February 5, 2010

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PORTLAND, Ore. - The ketchup packet has been around for more than 40 years, and complaints about it for nearly as long: too messy, too small, too hard to open. Now ketchup giant H.J. Heinz Co. is unveiling the first major packaging change to the to-go condiment.

The design has a base that’s more like a cup for dipping and also a tear-off end for squeezing, plus it holds three times as much ketchup as a traditional packet.

“The packet has long been the bane of our consumers,’’ said Dave Ciesinski, vice president of Heinz Ketchup. “The biggest complaint is there is no way to dip and eat it on-the-go.’’

Heinz has long struggled to find a design that lets diners dip or squeeze ketchup that could also be sold at a price acceptable to its restaurant customers.

Heinz sells more than 11 million cases of its ketchup packets in the United States every year and it will continue to sell the traditional packet. The new packet is in test markets and will roll out at select fast-food restaurants in the fall.

Heinz is still working out prices with customers but said packets will cost a little more than regular packets.

Will they catch on? It’s hard telling, but the news might cheer some ketchup fans like Matt Kurtz, a 22-year-old student who finds the problems are as ubiquitous as the packets themselves.

Two years ago after spilling ketchup on his jeans while on a road trip, he started one of hundreds of anti-ketchup packet groups on Facebook. He dubbed it “Prop 57’’ as a gentle poke at Heinz, saying it is to “draw awareness’’ to the packets’ shortcomings.