Condiments as cool? That's the assertion today from the nation's largest ketchup producer, as its newest innovation -- Heinz EZ Squirt(TM) -- begins delivery to grocery store shelves, following months of pleas, pressure and petitions from American consumers. The product, available in both red and green, has been touted around the globe as one of this 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," according to Casey Keller, 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."

Since the company first announced its plans for Heinz EZ Squirt -- particularly the Blastin' Green variety -- it has been flooded with non-stop letters, phone calls and proposals from kids and adults. Ranging from requests for school fund-raisers to inquiries by professional athletes, movie studios and Hollywood celebrities, the public demand has outpaced the company's initial supply, an unprecedented event for the 130-year-old company.

Heinz estimates that its sales forecast for the product's first year of shipments will be met in the first 90 days, and 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.

Gotta Have The Green

Although Heinz is not the first to adopt an outrageous color to appeal to kids' sense of mealtime fun, it's virtually the only recent kid-friendly food to be greeted with such excitement.

"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."

Heinz EZ Squirt is the first-ever colored condiment as well as the first developed specifically by and for kids. More than 1,000 kids participated in research and focus groups for the EZ Squirt concept and ultimately helped to direct the product's packaging, fun color and control features.

"We listened closely to our No. 1 consumer and gave them what they asked for," Keller said. "The positive response proves that our approach was the right one." Kids are the No. 1 consumers of ketchup, eating more than 5 billion ounces of ketchup annually -- or half the U.S. volume. Kids also provided the inspiration for EZ Squirt's fun color, package and control features. The bottle is ergonomically designed to fit smaller hands and its special cap ensures a super-thin ketchup stream. Green was among the most popular colors mentioned by kids as their preference for the new product. The company is also quick to point out that the green hue is achieved by adding food coloring to traditional Heinz Ketchup ... not from green tomatoes as many consumers suspect. Intensive testing was conducted to ensure that the same great taste of Heinz Ketchup was not altered. Research confirms that there is no difference in taste between the red and green EZ Squirt varieties. In addition, Heinz EZ Squirt is fortified with Vitamin C, another first Heinz has introduced to the category.

With sales of more than $9 billion, H.J. Heinz Company is one of the world's leading marketers of branded foods to supermarkets and away-from-home eating establishments. Its 50 companies operate in approximately 200 countries, offering more than 5,700 varieties. Among the company's famous global brands are Heinz, StarKist, Ore-Ida, Weight Watchers, College Inn, Boston Market, Smart Ones, Budget Gourmet and Bagel Bites.


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USA: Kids Get Their Wish ... New Heinz 'EZ Squirt' Ketchup Features Kid-Customized Bottles for Better Control, More Fun at Mealtime