Why do ketchup bottles pour the way they do?

The Atlantic puts out a very interesting daily email. This was from a few days back.

 If you’re old enough to remember glass Heinz ketchup bottles, you might also recall how frustrating they were to use. You’d strike the bottom until, eventually, a huge blob would splurt out, ruining your plate.

Heinz’s current bottle is squeezable and it relocates the dispenser to the bottom, but its valve is so tight that a heap of ketchup still comes out with each squeeze.

I compared the Heinz squeezable bottle with the cylindrical, fine-tipped sort that adorn many a diner and picnic table. I could get that generic bottle to output 30 times less condiment per squeeze, and in a fine line instead of a wide dollop. Today’s bottle might be good for a fry-dipping excursion, but it releases too much ketchup to dress a burger or hot dog.

The earlier, cheaper packaging technology seems superior. So why would Heinz deploy a worse—or at least less flexible—design?

Daniel Johnson, the chair of packaging science at Rochester Institute of Technology, assured me that big companies such as Kraft Heinz put lots of R&D behind their packaging. The ketchup bottle would have been subject to focus-group studies of usage preferences, bottle-holding habits, and more. A Heinz spokesperson told me, “We’ve found that our consumers prefer a dollop to top a burger or for dipping.”

That would explain why the bottle works the way it does, but it can’t stop me from lamenting such a one-note use of our nation’s favorite condiment. Invest in a cheap, picnic-type bottle and dispense from the brand-name bottle into it for a more versatile squeeze.

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