Can Ketchup Be Innovative?

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Future in Focus's picture

originally posted at The Trends and Foresight Blog by Mike Vidikan and Chris Carbone

To some people, this is still just a ketchup bottle. But it struck us as a good example of how businesses can use new technology to engage consumers and differentiate commodity products...after all ketchup is catsup no matter how you spell it.

Guess what my bottle is made of?

We spend a lot of time in our Global Lifestyles and Technology Foresight projects exploring the way new technology intersects with consumer life—and have reported on packaging innovations in past reports. For example, in The Transparent Marketplace (Global Lifestyles, 2008) we discussed how new barcode technologies would drive greater transparency, enable ethical shopping, and help product info migrate from websites to handheld devices. We said:

“Another innovation expanding transparency is the new generation of scanning codes that will replace traditional barcodes. These new barcodes—often called SemaCodes, QR Codes, or data matrix—will allow more product information to be encoded and then read by cameras on handheld devices…These new information codes could contain not just pricing information, but also data on sourcing, environmental impacts, and manufacturing. Companies are already putting such product information on their websites, making the migration of this data to scannable on-shelf information codes likely.”

We’re now seeing these and other forecasts from our analysis come to fruition and the question on the Heinz bottle asking “Guess what my bottle is made of?” and the prominent QR code on back are good examples of this.

So where are we headed next? Here are just a few of the things we expect in the future from innovative packaging solutions:

  • More efficient use of limited resources, like we see in this detergent bottle from Ecologic Brands that uses recycled cardboard and an inside plastic pouch. The savings: It contains 70% less plastic than a traditional laundry soap “jug”. This is the kind of innovation and efficiency gains we need.
  • Next-gen food safety and preservation systems, including advanced O2 scavengers, moisture management systems, and antimicrobial packaging, and further out nanosensors to detect pathogens, spoilage organisms, toxins, and allergens. Think of it as Food Safety 2.0.
  • Multi-sensory packaging, whether you love it or hate it, we’re sure to see more multi-sensory packaging. After all a large grocery store can carry up to 60,000 SKUs and brands will continue to employ new tools to break through the clutter. Over time, we’ll see labels become mini-billboards as flexible, printable electronics emerge and deliver nutritional information, recipes, or other info. We already saw this kind of thing last year on this LED-enabled vodka bottle, and one market forecast from IDTechEx puts the number of CPG items with electronic smart packaging at 35 billion in 2022. This kind of packaging won’t be right for every brand, but again, whether you love it or hate it, it’s likely on the way to a store near you...

What do you think? What packaging innovations are you seeing? Do you look forward to seeing more multi-sensory packaging—or dread the day it hits your store’s shelves?