CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Maybe change really is sweeping the nation. Heinz has changed the look of the label on its iconic ketchup bottle for the first time since the 1940s, replacing the gherkin below the product's name with a tomato dangling from a vine. The result: a more-healthful perception.
"With all due respect to the pickle, which has served Heinz dutifully for 110 years, it's time to shift the focus on the tomato," said Noel Geoffroy, director-Heinz ketchup. According to Heinz's consumer research, Ms. Geoffroy said, the new "Grown not made" label confirms the "wholesomeness of Heinz tomato ketchup" for 68% of consumers.
Heinz is the latest in a slew of marketers in recent weeks to underscore the fruits or vegetables from which their products are derived. Consumers have been recently reminded that Classic Lay's come from potatoes, that Tostitos are made from corn, and that Tropicana orange juice is 100% orange. According to Mintel International, "natural" was the most common claim made about new food and beverage products launched in 2008, with one in four bearing that distinction.
"While most people have enjoyed the great taste of Heinz Ketchup, many people don't know that Heinz tomatoes go into each bottle of ketchup," Ms. Geoffroy said. "The new design featuring a vine-ripened tomato and a tagline of 'Grown not made' emphasizes our deep dedication to tomato quality from seed to bottle."
What consumers want
Credit Suisse analyst Robert Moskow said the changes reflect consumer preferences. "Consumers are looking for a more natural experience," he said. "There's more and more effort by consumers to try to eat foods that their grandmothers would recognize. If you're putting something on your plate that's highly fabricated, you don't feel as good about yourself anymore, so I think it's on target."
Whether the makeover drives sales, Mr. Moskow said, remains to be seen, because ketchup use is driven by consumption of the products it goes on. When hamburger and french-fry consumption goes down, ketchup use also tends to suffer.
The label change is something Ms. Geoffroy said Heinz "did not take lightly"; the marketer worked on the redesign for years. Heinz consulted people throughout the organization and conducted consumer research. The company already changed the ketchup label in the U.K. last year.
"Both the print and television ads worked so well in the U.K. that we didn't want to make too many changes before releasing them in the U.S.," she said. "We engaged the help of a local agency to make some minor changes to the television commercial to adapt it for a U.S. audience."
Heinz first introduced the gherkin on the "imperial-style" bottle it launched in 1895 following a successful "pickle pin" promotion unveiled at the Chicago World's Fair. The pickle pins were very popular, with attendees lining up to get them. But Ms. Geoffroy said the simple marketing gimmick, which became embedded in ketchup brand, "has faded into the background in consumers' minds over time." The last label update was in the 1940s, when the gherkin was made smaller and the company introduced the label most consumers are familiar with.
"While bittersweet for Heinz, it became clear that it was time to put the tomato center stage," Ms. Geoffroy said, adding that Heinz didn't seriously consider anything but a tomato for the new label.