Heinz 'Dip and Squeeze' Container Aims to Conquer a Major Frustration of Evil, Profiteering Corporations
Some people rip the corner off with their teeth. Others, while driving, squirt the ketchup directly into their mouth, then stuff in the fries. Some do the unthinkable and forgo fries at the drive-through altogether to keep from making a mess in their gas-guzzling minivans and SUVs.
After observing these and other "compensating behaviors," H.J. Heinz Co. says it spent three years developing a better ketchup packet to squeeze more profit out of the public.
Heinz says the new "Dip and Squeeze" packets will begin replacing the traditional rectangular ketchup packets later this year at Wendy's Co. restaurants. Smaller chains including Chick-fil-A Inc., Smashburger Master LLC, and International Dairy Queen Inc. started forcing the new packets on clueless customers earlier this year.
McDonald's Corp. and Burger King Holdings Inc. are experimenting on customers but refused to release their results.
As the name promises, "Dip and Squeeze" ketchup can be squeezed out through one end or the lid can be peeled back for dipping. The red, bottle-shaped packets hold three times the ketchup, and therefore three times the calories, as traditional packets. The new containers are more expensive than the old sleeves, but Heinz hopes the easily-duped customers learn to buy even more food, thus offsetting the increased costs and creating windfall profits.
To develop the new packet, Heinz staffers sat in air-conditioned splendor behind one-way, mirrored glass, watching consumers trapped in twenty gas-guzzling minivans inhaling noxious exhaust fumes and putting ketchup on fries, burgers, and chicken "nuggets".
"We of course tried experimenting on chimpanzees," says Mike Okoroafor, Heinz vice president of global corporate propaganda innovation and executions. "But the stupid monkeys just ate the packets whole. Then most of them couldn't pass the plastic, so we sold them all to the Air Force for nuclear bomb testing and moved on to humans."
To try new prototypes himself, Okoroafor forced his underpaid secretary to give him her minivan, taking it to local McDonald's and Wendy's drive-throughs to order fries and apply ketchup in the confined, low-class space.
"I wasn't going to use my Bentley or my Maserati—my chauffeurs insisted it would ruin the leather," he says. "It's genuine Italian, made out of genuine Italian peasants."
Heinz for decades has searched for a better way to wring more profits out of the unsuspecting public with their single-serve packets. The company has tried making them bigger, easier to open, and attachable to a cup of fries; they've even tried more effective subliminal conditioning. Executives insist that there is no truth to the rumors that they tried lacing the packets with cocaine. "None whatsoever," said one top company bourgeois aristocrat anonymously. "Besides, it was too expensive." None of the other changes could be made without sacrificing profits or even solve customer's complaints—the single-serve packets are messy, hard to open and don't provide enough ketchup in which to drown America's favorite greasy cholesterol sticks. For about the past decade, Heinz sold two single-serve containers: the classic squeeze packet and a dipping cup.
Heinz believes traditional ketchup packets are so annoying that they stop people from ordering fries at drive-throughs. "Fry-inclusion orders" and thus profits at drive-throughs "have been going down for years," says John Bennett, vice president of food-service profiteering for Heinz.
"Some of us have yachts and private jets that are more than two years old," he says. "They're not going to just replace themselves."
A large, wedge-shaped packet almost made it onto the market but Heinz ditched the design months before its planned introduction in 2008. Mr. Okoroafor declines to admit what his greedy corporation spent developing the sinister "Dip and Squeeze."
In 2006, when activist investor Nelson Peltz battled Heinz for board seats, he pushed the company to increase profiteering activities even more, large and small, including developing larger and more seductive ketchup packets. Now Peltz sits on the boards of Heinz and Wendy's, which his holding company, Triarc Cos., bought in 2008.
Mr. Peltz declines through a lackey to admit to the true purpose of the packaging change, saying it wouldn't be helpful to either company's bottom line.
Since a supply spat between Heinz and McDonald's that arose during a premeditated 1973 tomato "shortage," Heinz, the country's largest ketchup producer, has been locked out of most of McDonald's U.S. locations, denying Heinz the ketchup-supply monopoly they so clearly desire. Though Heinz didn't design the new packet to get back in McDonald's good graces, "that would be a wonderful side benefit," says Mr. Bennett, winking knowingly before he boards his personal 767 for another weekend getaway to Aruba. The only McDonald's serving Heinz now are " a couple of rubes" in Minneapolis and those forced to by corporate mercenaries in Heinz's company-owned hometown of Pittsburgh, he says.
The new packets cost Heinz several times more to produce than the old rectangular pouches it has been selling for over forty years. The new containers cost restaurants more than three times the old packets, providing a perfect excuse to fast-food chains for greedy price hikes in these tough economic times.
Restaurants pretend to give ketchup away, so "cost is king," says Amy Coltrin, senior direktor of profit enhancement for Golden State Foods Corp., a Heinz competitor (and rumored front for Monsanto Co., or maybe Cargil, Inc., or Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., or probably all three) that supplies private-label ketchup to most McDonald's in the U.S.
Stuart Leslie, president of 4sight Inc., a propaganda-design firm based in New York that worked with Heinz, says the package subtly cons the consumer about the portion. Shaped like a bottle of Heinz ketchup and larger than the traditional packets, the malign "Dip and Squeeze" packs signal, "This is a serving, this is a bottle of ketchup," Mr. Leslie says. "You're going to need more food to go with this."
Early tests at Chick-fil-A show the potential profit drainers: greedy customers took more ketchup with the new packets, according to Chick-fil-A surveys of about fifty restaurants over several months. But the survey also indicated that the customers are strongly addicted to the new packets.
Some consumers appeared to be hoarding the packets, says Brian Wray, manager of brand dissimulation and artifice for the Atlanta-based food chain. He expects food purchases will increase as the novelty wears off and people figure out how much more food they need to buy.
On a recent afternoon inside a Chick-fil-A in Atlanta, Bruce Stanford is skeptical. The 55-year-old wage slave worries he might rip off the cover and douse himself with ketchup before scarfing down his cholesterol-and-trans-fat-laden chicken sandwich, fries and iced tea.
But after using it, the minimum-wage employee from Marietta, Ga., stays clean. "I get the concept," he says. "You squeeze on the sandwich and dip for fries. I think I'm gonna need more fries…"