NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Would you eat it on the Street?|
Would you eat it in your seat?
It's not green eggs and ham as popularized in the Dr. Seuss book, but green ketchup that H.J. Heinz Co. introduced Monday in hopes that a colorful condiment will help boost ketchup use by children.
Children already consume more than five billion ounces of ketchup each year, according to Heinz.
The company also introduced a new bottle that is easier for kids to grip and dispenses ketchup in a thin stream that allows them to draw figures or write their name.
The new 24-ounce bottle, which will cost about $1.79, will hit stores shelves by October, the Pittsburgh-based company said.
Brendan Foley, Heinz' general manager for global ketchup marketing, said he expects the new product to help boost ketchup sales 3-5 percent for the fiscal year. Heinz posts ketchup sales of more than $300 million a year.
However, Foley declined to say how much the company invested in developing the new bottles and the green ketchup.
"As every parent knows, kids have long used ketchup to personalize their food," Joe Jimenez, president and chief executive officer of Heinz North America said. "Heinz is bringing fun to food with a ketchup that physically and intuitively encourages both control and creativity."
With more than $9 billion in annual sales, Heinz, known for its ketchup, StarKist Tuna, Weight Watchers, Boston Market licensed frozen food and other popular brands, announced Monday that it expects the new ketchup, which has been nutritionally fortified, and bottle to increase volume.
"...If you've ever watched a child use ketchup you can tell early on that the current model is not easy for them to control. Mom gets frustrated and she yanks it out of the kid's hand," Jimenez told CNNfn's Market Coverage. "So what we did is we've ergonomically designed a bottle that fits the hand of a child. And we created a nozzle that provides the child with greater control over where they put the ketchup." [240K WAV] [240K AIFF]
Before designing the new bottles, Heinz followed groups of kids around at school and at home to determine their ketchup-eating habits.
"It really came down to control and independence," Foley said. "It was really evident at mealtime. Kids would say hey, I want to put it on my broccoli."
Romitha Mally, an analyst with Goldman, Sachs & Co., said Heinz hopes the new packaging will address some consumer issues with the ketchup.
"In the food industry you're trying to innovate through new packaging to drive sales," Mally said. "One of the issues consumers had with their ketchup is that when you first poor it out it's watery. The EZ Squirt just makes it easier to get the ketchup out."
Mally said the green ketchup was also simply a new marketing effort to generate excitement about the product.
Heinz said that focus groups of parents and children liked the new squirt bottles and that children suggested colored ketchup as a way to generate more excitement about the product.
And yes, it still tastes like the regular red ketchup.
"There's like a great anxiety that comes over the face of an adult. Everyone forgets when they were a kid," Foley said when asked how parents reacted to the new green color. "We're not going to mess with the best tasting ketchup in the world. But we can have fun with that."
More than three-quarters of mothers who participated in the focus group said they would buy the new EZ Squirt bottle in addition to their current ketchup purchases, officials said.
Monday's announcement comes just days after the Federal Trade Commission voted to block Heinz' proposed $185 million acquisition of Milnot Holdings, maker of Beech-Nut baby food.
The FTC said it decided the merger would create a "duopoly" in the U.S. baby food market currently dominated by Gerber. Heinz and Beech-Nut each have 14 percent of the U.S. market for baby food.
Heinz said it plans to oppose the FTC's move in court.
Shares of Heinz (HNZ: Research, Estimates) closed down 1/8 at 45-3/8 on the New York Stock Exchange Monday.