There are some things in life that are meant to be paper and some things that are just not. That is a fact (*cough* straws *cough*). It remains to be seen which of those camps Heinz’s new paper-based ketchup bottles will fall into once they hit the market full scale.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for using materials that are better for the environment. For example with straws, I’m into those cool bamboo straws, reusable straws (as long as they come with a cleaning brush), compostable straws that look like plastic but somehow aren’t, a Red Vine, a particularly robust bucatino (what I assume is Italian for a single bucatini noodle), but paper straws can really struggle to hold up to a movie theater soda for two whole hours. The nature of drinks is that they are wet and the nature of paper straws is that they can’t handle wet. It’s a real “straw-crossed lovers” situation.
How Heinz Is Going Green
That brings us to Heinz. They say the bottles will be paper-based, but the story doesn’t end there. They are actually joining forces with Pulpex (a sustainable packing company) to create these bottles out of “100-percent sustainably-sourced wood pulp,” and they want to be the first condiment company to do so. Now I’m going to be honest, I have no idea what a wood pulp-based bottle feels like, nor how it functions in the real world. However, Pulpex has already designed a similar wood pulp bottle for Johnnie Walker scotch, and that gives me hope, as whisky is much wetter than ketchup. So that covers my “what if wet product destroys paper” concerns.
But that still leaves the squeeze factor. Something like a paper milk carton can hold up to liquid but cannot be squeezed a bunch of times without its structural integrity wearing down. Ketchup happens to be a non-Newtonian fluid (a term I heard in a science class once and have always wanted to use in my actual life). This basically refers to any fluid that changes viscosity when stress is applied. Oobleck (cornstarch mixed with water), for instance, gets thicker with stress, while ketchup, unlike most of us, gets thinner with stress. This is why ketchup comes out of the bottle when we squeeze it. “Non-Newtonian” is essentially science for “ketchup done need to be squeezed.” Hopefully, this new bottle allows for that to happen!
Currently, Heinz is still in the prototyping phase, so we won’t see these bottles on shelves anytime soon, but this seems like it may be a huge part of the future of packaged food and the push to make it more sustainable. Honestly, we probably should’ve looked into packaging like this much earlier, but hey, Heinzsight is 20/20.
H/T Food & Wine