|It's Easy Being Green|
So what is this newest advertising phenomenon? No, it's not the latest replacement for Pokemon. It's ketchup. You know, the red stuff you squirt on your french fries. Except this isn't your mother's ketchup. This stuff is green. As in spinach colored.
Pittsburgh, the world headquarters of the H. J. Heinz company, is center stage this week as the highly anticipated Heinz EZ Squirt, the new 'kid-friendly' ketchup, makes its debut on store shelves. The product, available in both red and 'Blastin' Green,' has been touted around the globe as one of the year's most eagerly-awaited items.
There was never a doubt the EZ Squirt bottle would be a hit with kids because ketchup is inherently fun," says Casey Kelley, managing director of global ketchup, condiments and sauces for Heinz. "But, the overwhelming response has surprised even us. It's not often you see eight-year-olds demanding their own ketchup the way they would a new toy."
Why does a simple thing like changing the color of ketchup create such a fuss? "Today's kids are exposed to lots of vibrant colors and animation, and they expect these same experiences at the dinner table," said Gene Grabowski, spokesperson for the Grocery Manufacturers Association. "To kids, food is about more than eating. Color, taste and touch are vital elements for differentiation. The innovation behind Heinz EZ Squirt's package and eye-catching color is a great example of how an item can transcend its food status by first, delighting kids."
Since July when the company first announced its plans for Heinz EZ Squirt - particularly the Blastin' Green variety - the world's largest ketchup maker has been flooded with requests from people trying to get pre-launch samples. Parent's have offered to pay as much as $10 per bottle so their child could have the coolest birthday party on the block. There have been inquiries from schools, churches, movie studios and Hollywood celebrities. One person even tried to get a bottle by claiming to be related to Heinz CEO, Bill Johnson.
Heinz has been saving the new product for its customers, however, and for good reason. "We're on track to ship in the first 90 days what we thought we would sell in the first year," says Keller. "This thing has taken on a momentum of its own, striking a chord with kids and people in general." The company has stepped up production to ensure that grocery store shelves remain stocked, increasing production to 24 hours, seven days a week and adding additional equipment.
Pittsburgh Mayor, Tom Murphy, and members of the Pittsburgh city council celebrated the launch with a green eggs and ham breakfast and a free lunchtime "Green Giveaway" of french fries with green ketchup on the steps of the City-County Building Downtown. Local Giant Eagle supermarkets are among the first in the nation to stock the new ketchup with widespread availability by December 2000. The new EZ Squirt is available in 24-ounce bottles retailing for approximately $1.79.
Kids are the No. 1 consumers of ketchup, eating more than 5 billion ounces of ketchup annually, so Heinz went to the experts when researching the new EZ squirt concept. Kids were the inspiration for the product's packaging, fun color and control features. The new bottle is ergonomically designed to fit smaller hands and its special cap ensures a super-thin ketchup stream - great for drawing! Heinz says that green was among the most popular colors mentioned by kids for the new product, though I can't help but wonder if perhaps Heinz was trying not to offend parents completely with their final color selection. At least green is a common color for food - including tomatoes. Personally, I think kids would ultimately choose 'Blastin' Blue' or 'Power Purple' if given free reign.
The company is quick to point out that the green hue is achieved by stripping the color from traditional Heinz Ketchup and adding green food coloring, not from green tomatoes as many consumers suspect. Intensive testing was conducted to ensure that the same great taste of Heinz Ketchup is present in the new green version. Outside of the packaging, the only difference in the new EZ Squirt variety is the fact that the green version is not called 'tomato ketchup' because the addition of the food color means the product is no longer 100% ketchup. Plus, both the red and green versions are fortified with Vitamin C, most likely to appeal to kid's parents.
Blue M&Ms, pink-stuffed Oreos, green ketchup...what's next?
Image © 2000 H. J. Heinz Company.
Used with Permission.