Look What They Did To Your Ketchup Bottle
Nov. 23, 2003
by Michael Saffran
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Plastic coffee cans and paint cans? Pop-top soup cans? Upside-down ketchup bottles? Ingenious packaging innovations—or has the world gone mad while you weren’t looking?
Packaging—heretofore barely noticed and primarily utilitarian—has people talking like never before.
Take those plastic coffee cans, for example. Folgers, which recently introduced its “revolutionary AromaSeal Canister,” claims it preserves coffee’s natural aroma, is lightweight, easy to hold and more convenient, and eliminates the need for a can opener.
The downside? “Metal coffee cans offer better protection than plastic ones and, most importantly, secondary uses,” says Fritz Yambrach, associate professor of packaging science at Rochester Institute of Technology, one of only six universities in the nation that offers a degree in packaging. “There’s value in packaging that hangs around a while—like old Dutch Master’s cigar containers.”
Indeed, a metal coffee can is more than just a package to be discarded after the last coffee ground has been brewed. Popular secondary uses for empty steel cans include holding miscellaneous nuts and bolts and soaking paintbrushes in paint thinner—with each use offering additional brand exposure.
However, when it comes to plastic paint cans, Yambrach sees them as an improvement over metal containers because of designs making them easier to use. What about those new Campbell’s soup cans featuring “easy-open, pop-top” lids? They’re more convenient since a can opener isn’t needed. But attempts to spoon out every last drop are met with frustration due to a ridge at the top of the can—which can also be dangerous to tongues.
Heinz and Hunt’s introduced upside-down ketchup bottles, claiming they’re ergonomically better and they make it easier to dispense condiments. Although Yambrach likes them, he says they’re more creative than functional—meant to stimulate brand awareness and increase sales, not make you feel as though your world has turned upside down (only your ketchup bottle has).