PITTSBURGH, Pa. — After conditioning consumers for 124 years to expect ketchup to be red, the H.J. Heinz company pivoted suddenly on July 10, 2000, and gave the condiment a colorful makeover.
The Heinz EZ Squirt debuted with Blastin’ Green ketchup as a promotion in support of the first “Shrek” movie. The novelty condiment was so enthusiastically embraced by kids that the company scrambled to fulfill demand. A year’s worth of orders were sold in the first few months.
The new ketchup came in a kid-friendly plastic bottle that was squeezable, unlike the traditional glass bottles which famously released their contents at a glacial pace as was touted in Heinz’s marketing. The new design was indented a third of the way down and had a twisty nozzle top ideal for, well, squirting.
The company’s surprise fad hit turned into a complete line of oddly colored ketchups over the next few years. Awesome Orange, Totally Teal, Stellar Blue, Passion Pink and Funky Purple soon became EZ Squirt products and, if that wasn’t wacky enough, Heinz even introduced a Mystery Color line that could contain any of them in bottles that didn’t betray the color of their contents.
The process of making the multicolored ketchups required stripping out the red color of traditional ketchup and adding food coloring. As a result, other ingredients had to be adjusted to maintain the ketchup’s expected flavor profile and that meant it could no longer be called “tomato ketchup.” To keep the labeling change from arousing parental suspicions that it was less healthy, Heinz fortified EZ Squirts with vitamin C.
Wary customers were also assured that the new ketchup still had that “same great Heinz taste” in giant lettering on the front of the bottle. Despite that claim, some consumers were adamant that the taste was different.
Advertisements for the colorful ketchups enthusiastically showed how they could be used to decorate food. Consumers were encouraged to see ketchup as their paint and hamburgers and other foods as their canvas, much to the dismay of parents and their admonishments of “don’t play with your food.”
After six years of creative embellishments on food, the novelty wore off and Heinz’s fickle young fans tired of making tribal tattoos on their hot dogs. The company discontinued the EZ Squirt colors as sales dwindled.
In 2012, just long enough for ketchup traditionalists to again be lulled into a false sense of palette security, green ketchup was revived through a partnership with Burger King. The new “emerald sauce” packets were given away with free French fries as part of a St. Patrick’s Day promotion.
Kraft Food Groups merged with the H.J. Heinz Company in 2015 to form the fifth-largest food and beverage company in the world.
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