Changing formats can work wonders for sales but what’s inside the bottle sometimes matters more

The biggest single development in the £181m thick and thin sauces sector has been in terms of packaging, with top-down and squeezy formats from the major players winning a place in the hearts and fridge doors of consumers over the past couple of years.
Leading brand Heinz has found new packaging extremely successful. Says Jane Jeffreys, marketing manager for Heinz Tomato Ketchup: “Over the past 12-18 months, top-down has been incredibly successful. Research showed people turn the bottle upside down when it’s nearly empty anyway, and the new format doesn’t leave mess around the cap. In the latest 12-16 weeks top-down has accounted for 75% of our sales.”
But this won’t mean the demise of the glass bottle: “We will definitely keep one glass 342g bottle. Ten per cent of consumers love the glass bottle and are very loyal so it’s important we keep it.”
But is packaging enough to satisfy
consumers’ changing palates? Phil Lynas, MD at The Grocery Company, manufacturer of the peri-peri based Nando’s range, is emphatic that it isn’t. “In a market dominated by big brands all that’s happening is packaging innovation - squeezy and top-down. It’s fascinating but it’s not changing flavours. We are adding flavour to ketchups.”
And National BBQ Association chairman Brian George agrees: “Very few major brands have actually had any real
innovation. Heinz did Flavours of the Mediterranean, which were intensely Mediterranean but boring. It’s something everyone has done and was an attempt to cash in on growing sophistication.”
George’s Grillmaster’s Revenge range includes four table sauces created to cater to the fact that over the past couple of years people’s tastes have become more adventurous. “Spicy and fruity are the dominant flavours and people are mixing more unusual flavour profiles such as mango and ginger,” says George.
Traditional sauces can keep their clout if they are modernised.
Greencore Grocery, best known for supplying own-label sauces and condiments, entered the branded arena in February when it bought the 245-year-old Burgess brand of table sauces. The range, which includes mint, cranberry, seafood and tartare sauces, as well as mustard and horseradish, has been modernised to ensure traditional products can keep up the pace.
“There is a conscious effort to move the category forward and away from just being a simple commodity,” says Renny Hemingway, sales and marketing director. “Growth comes by offering customer choice, innovation and strong brand values.”
Nisaway category controller Peter Hindmarsh says: “Sauces that were typically only used for the barbecue occasion are now much more popular.
“Consumers are looking for authenticity and exotic flavours in their food today.”
But Jeffreys points out: “You don’t want to be changing a product like Heinz Tomato Ketchup all the time.
“We did a green version a couple of years ago and Easy Squirts for kids, and recently chilli and curry versions.”
She adds: “When you’ve created something like top-down it’s difficult to follow on with packaging.
“We are looking at global consumer trends which are about lighter snacking and people wanting convenience foods and how we can fit in. It’s all still work in progress.”