Today (Feb 4), the H.J. Heinz Ketchup Co. introduced a more user-friendly ketchup package that isn’t so messy (press release and graphics). In it, Heinz will also put healthier ketchup made from better ingredients, and in three times the amount per new packet compared to the current (old) one. This packaging change is the first Heinz has made in 42 years, though the new packets will appear along side the old packets, not replace them, for those people who just won’t change. Smart move! However, I question if the new ketchup and packaging will really make things better for the consumer for reasons of waste and larger packet size. But let’s get the deal first for context to compare.
Traditionally, Heinz’ ketchup packets have been those tear at the tip packets that can get a little messy pending your usage situation and level of motor skills. Now, it looks like a bottle-shaped jam packet, which looks more like branding than revolutionary. You can lift up one corner to dip when eating in a car, or you can open it at the tip and squeeze out the ketchup. The latter isn’t common to jam but you don’t squeeze your jam to dip, either. Or at least most people I know don’t. As for performance, please have a look at the news summary and Popular Mechanics test videos below.
I know, Popular Mechanics test. Pretty rad!
In March, Heinz’ ketchup will be made from sugar instead of high fructose and corn sweetener. So that’s what they’ve been putting in the stuff for 40+ years, eh? High fructose and corn sweetener. Well, good on Heinz cause there’s no sense crying about spilled ketchup now. In the summer, the product, called Simply Heinz Tomato Ketchup, will also contain 15% less sodium than currently. Very good, but this will be a bit like changing the taste of Coke, as far as I’m concerned. We’ll see how things go and if they’ll switch back or make both versions, current and new, available. If so, I’d recommend labeling the current version Less Healthy Heinz Tomato Ketchup (to be kind). That should keep a few people from using it.
BUT WAIT A MINUTE!!!
The changes made by Heinz are good to some extent, but they seemed to have forgotten about a few other issues.
Excess ketchup waste caused by larger volume packets
People often hand out more ketchup packets than one needs, in part because the packets are small. I make it a point to give back the unused packets, as unsanitary as that might seem to some. But if the new packages are 3X as large, even if given out 1 packet per customer unless more is asked for, there’s going to be more waste because any opened packet has 3X the potential amount of ketchup to be wasted. I only consume two of the current packages at a time, for example, so I’d be wasting 1/3 of the new packet if I get it every time out. Overall, it’s good for Heinz’s bottom line cause they make money on packets sold, not packets consumed, and have no penalties on food and packaging of packets thrown away.
New packaging waste not environmentally friendly
As far as anyone can tell, the new packaging is not environmentally friendly. There was not any such word on the Heinz press release, and the Christian Science Monitor reports no such indication, either, with a call to Heinz not returned. That’s terribly disappointing for a company with an environmental section on their website. Their annual report (5.8 MB PDF) talks a lot about 20% solid waste reduction, but that’s not in the packaging. It’s all plant reductions and potential outcomes of awareness sessions for employees. In other words, if environmental sustainability were sweetness, Heinz is still on the high fructose corn sweetener route, and not sugar. The current packaging is not recyclable, by the way, and the rigid new packaging is only potentially more damaging, even if a tad smaller in overall volume and weight than 3 of the old packets.
Excess waste from more personalized packaging
With the new packaging being more portable, each person could have his/her own packet to dip in, which may not have been done previously. That is, you and your friends could have just had a few mounds of ketchup for a half a dozen of you to dip your fries (or chips) in before. Now, you each might well just get your own packet, each wasting a bit of ketchup rather than a bit left over in two mounds, not to mention more packages wasted.
Excess ketchup not good for the diet
Given more ketchup in a packet, people will just tend to eat more of it, especially if they think about it as being healthier than before. Then there will be the crowd who won’t let any food go to waste unless they have to. For them, a little excess ketchup is not worthy to discard, so they will also consume more ketchup. Sure, the ingredient improvements are good, but will it be a net benefit? Sugar isn’t exactly good in excess, even if better than high fructose corn sweetener. As for the 15% reduction in sodium, well, if you consume 15% more ketchup because you think it’s healthier or eat more due to the larger packets, you just negated that. You do worst eating greater than 15% more. Now, how many do you think will only eat 15% more?
So is there a NET improvement with the new Heinz ketchup and packet?
Not in my opinion. At least not what I’ve learned from it.
- More food waste
- As much solid waste or more
- Solid waste is potentially more environmentally damaging
- People consuming more ketchup that could easily negate ingredient improvements
- Biased corporate spin to only look at the good side of something when the bad side is potentially greater
What do you think?
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 7.7