For decades there was only one way to use the humble ketchup packet, and it was messy. Now, fast-food lovers have a choice: the traditional squeeze play - or the option to dunk.
The new ketchup pack, unveiled Thursday by H.J. Heinz Co., is shaped like a shallow cup. The top can be peeled back for dipping, or the end can be torn off for squeezing. It holds three times as much ketchup as a traditional packet.
Customers at a McDonald's in Covington, Ky., welcomed a redesign.
"You use up a lot of ketchup now with the packets. I always get extra ones," said Skyler McDermott, 29. "Maybe now you won't have to use your teeth to open them."
Heinz struggled for years to develop a container that lets diners dip or squeeze, and to produce it at a cost acceptable to its restaurant customers.
"The packet has long been the bane of our consumers," said Dave Ciesinski, vice president of Heinz Ketchup. Designers found that what worked at a table didn't work where many people use ketchup packets: in the car. So two years ago, Heinz bought a used minivan for the design team members so they could give their ideas a real road test.
The team studied what each passenger needed. The driver wanted something that could sit on the armrest. Passengers wanted the choice of squeezing or dunking. Moms everywhere wanted a packet that held enough ketchup for the meal and didn't squirt onto clothes so easily.
Heinz is rolling out the new packs this fall at select fast-food restaurants.