CT Scan Reveals Secrets Of Heinz’s New Ketchup Cap

Ketchup bottles are a solved technology, right? Wrong! As it turns out, there is still great development being done in this space. Industrial imaging company Lumafield reveals to us the secrets of Heinz’s new ketchup bottle cap, reportedly the result of a seven-figure investment and eight long years of toil.

Lumafield put the cap in a CT scanner to generate three-dimensional cutaway images of the cap’s internal structure.  The trick of the new cap is in how it compares to the old design. The previous solution used multiple different plastics: likely polypropylene for the cap itself, along with a small amount of silicone for the flexible nozzle valve. The point of the valve was to regulate the flow of ketchup so the bottle squirts out the red goop in a predictable fashion.

The problem with the old cap is that the use of two materials both makes it more expensive to manufacture, and practically impossible to recycle. A solution was needed, and Heinz finally found one.

The new cap, which is fully recyclable, takes advantage of the properties of ketchup itself. As the ketchup is squeezed out of the bottle, it passes through a complicated array of channels before it gets to the nozzle outlet itself. As a sheer-thinning fluid, ketchup gets less viscous the more its under strain. Thus, as it deforms around the complex channels, it becomes less viscous and more likely to flow out at a predictable rate, rather than in thick gloopy spurts.

It’s amazing to think how much work goes into a simple ketchup cap, and yet, millions of dollars are on the line in projects like these. This isn’t the first time Lumafield used their tech to peel back the layers on a piece of common tech — last year we covered their investigation into what’s inside various AirPod knockoffs.

57 thoughts on “CT Scan Reveals Secrets Of Heinz’s New Ketchup Cap

    1. I figured out a great trick for glass bottles just as they were on the way out. Holding the bottle on its side and rapidly waving the bottle side to side with a pivot point under your palm in the wide part of the bottle.

      1. Memory is weird.

        Your method brought back a former bosshole, using a catchup bottle as a sprinkler on a full restaurant. Lid was loose. Idiot was so busy listening to himself talk he didn’t notice until it dripped down the side of his face.

        His excuse for not even paying people’s cleaning, they called him an idiot.

      1. They have yet to solve the mustard pee problem. You can turn it upside down, shake it, heat it cool it, send it into space and it will still pee yellow water onto bread first 90% of the time. Doesn’t discriminate by class either. Chunky dijon all the way down to classic frenchs yellow pee frequent and hard. I guess the solution is a plastic kidney stone to go and clog up the tip and keep the mustard angry lol. I am flummoxed at the amount of time spent on development of this cap, as it seems like something that would be churned out in a month elsewhere like my nieces high school which did just that lol. At least someone bamboozled them enough to fund their 6 kids thru college lol. These companies….

    2. Ketchup still comes in glass bottles, atleast here in germany. And they work perfectly fine. I assume people just go for the squeeze bottles because they are easier.
      Not sure about the environmental impact between the two, but I assume glass might be more sustainable (I think they are often more expensive tho, sadly). Not sure about the cap, but I guess that could be solved too

  1. Years ago I read a chapter in a book about the invention of the previous ketchup cap, if I’m recalling this correctly. Ketchup company was wanting a nozzle/cap that would dispense when the bottle was squeezed but then seal cleanly when finished. What I remember is the inventor grew up on a farm, watching the farm animals. One of his observations was about how horses poop: the “nozzle” opens, dispenses, and then seals cleanly when finished. The next step was to model that in silicone and the rest is history.

    1. Heinz is doing an even devilish greenwashing if they don’t share that innovation as a cheap license (patent free will maybe not help to recover their costs) to any one wanting also to reduce waste.

  2. Eeek flashbacks to childhood, about 5, breakfast in a small guesthouse on holiday, shook the ketchup bottle, top came off, ketchup all up the walls, all over the tablecloth, all down the other diners’ clothes. With hindsight: that’ll teach ’em not to water down the ketchup.

  3. Since we’re sharing ketchup dispensing tips, hold the cap down firmly and swing your arm in a big circle several times. The centripetal force drives the contents to the cap end.

    Recall my brother doing this and failing to hold the cap on properly. It opened at the top of the arc and splatter a line across the ceiling.

  4. Do you have a source for saying the original used silicone? Or was it just a guess? I think it’s very, very unlikely to be the case. You can’t injection mould silicone. I doubt Heinz was turning out however many bazillion ketchup bottles using a polymer you have to cast. A TPU would be much more likely.

    1. They accept #1 through #7 (no films, foams, etc.) at the local recycling facility in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They’ve spent a lot of time, money, and effort to have such a capable facility though, so I realize finding someone to accept anything outside the usual #1 (PET) and #2 (HDPE) in most places can be difficult.

      1. You have no idea if it’s theater/compliance training or not.

        Consider glass, consider paper. Most ‘recycled’ ends in landfill. Resources are wasted. Sheep bleat ‘Yeah us, we’re green.’

  5. “reportedly the result of a seven-figure investment and eight long years of toil.”

    I am not usually cynical about such achievements in the advancement of mankind, but would not the loaded cost be better spent doing something tangible like feeding the hungry? (I remember homeless people making soup from fast-food ketchup and hot water.)

    Such expenses for trivial results show the gross profits that conglomerates generate; all while taking R&D development tax reductions.

  6. Thanks to the “X-Ray” images, it won’t be long before the Chinese cloners ketchup.

    I used Ketchup this morning. The queezy bit actually works fine. Except for the farting noise when you reach the end. Reminds me of… No it’s a kids site too.

    But I do dislike the drizzle of the incontent ketchup when you forget to shake the bottle. Drizzling onto the toast, which immediately becomes soggy toast. Yikes!

    There should be a law of physics that states Ketchup drizzle must float to the surface of the ketchup, not the base.

    This doesn’t happen with Ketchup made in the Netherlands.
    There, they obviously add industrial construction foam into the mixture to prevent such a mishap.
    My secret tip. You don’t have to buy Heinz Ketchup. Other Ketchup tastes exactly the same and cost only one third of the price.

    I discovered this travelling across many countries, where Heinz Ketchup was simply not available. We’ve been had by marketing companies for years.

    @Mavu. All that sugar going green and hairy and lumpy in the warm summer air.
    @DainBramage. Mmmmmh. Butter in the Ketchup glass.
    @Ray. Deal with the cause not the solution. Buy them condoms instead.

    In the Greasy Joe’s diners I used to frequent as a kid, kids would unscrew the top off the Ketchup glass. Or so I’m told.

    If you go in there today, you’ll find the hardened rim of ketchup around the opening from back when I was there in the 70s.

    They simply refill the bottles from a gastronomy-sized container. Thus sealing in the green, hairy bits underneath.

    Clean the bottle? No. Why? People who eat there regularly never get sick. Eating a dose of Penicillin every week does wonders for your constitution.

  7. I remember when normal PET drinking bottles switched from having a second, more pliable piece of plastic in the cap that was acting as a gasket to seal the bottle, to using the geometry of the cap itself to create a seal using a slanted lip. I thought that was clever. But it also robbed me of an easily available gasket material for PET bottle projects like water rockets.

    1. Someone should make a bottlecap/nozzle/finset/mentos holder for standard 1 liter bottles.

      Install Mentos, remove stock lid, install nozzlelid, flip/stand on fins and back away.

      It would suffer the fate of lawn darts. The anti-fun brigade would have kittens. We can’t have nice fun things!
      Sure a few people would die, but instead billions will be bored! 70 person-years of boredom is the same as killing a person.

      I bet it could be printable…Some extra mass but still…
      I can see the CNN: 3d Printable Ghost Rockets! Everybody panic!

  8. Thousands of hours and millions of dollars were spent not to make a more recyclable cap, but to make a less expensive cap; one that did not require two separate molding operations. This was for the bottom line, not the environment. The greenwashing comes from the marketing department. It is indeed 100% recyclABLE, but nowhere near 100% recycled.

    If Heinz was looking for materials that actually had a recycling stream and were recycled to a large percentage, then they should possibly try a glass bottle with a metal cap. Since they are so into protecting the environment, I would be curious to know what percentage of POST CONSUMER polypropylene is in their bottles and caps. My guess is they are using 100% virgin PP because it is cheaper and works better than recycled plastic – the Plastic Industries little recycling secret they don’t want you to know.

  9. Is ketchup containing high fructose corn syrup singularly an American thing? I have not seen it in other markets, and the American stuff tastes funny.

    Is it Big Corn and their subsidies, or is it genuinely an American preferred taste, like red car turn indicator lights?

  10. Fix 1 problem and create 2 more.

    These new caps can’t be properly cleaned.
    This means the product will eventually spoil or dry out, which is wasteful (but more profitable).
    It also means you can’t safety reuse the bottle, which is wasteful.

    We are literally better off using glass bottles and metal caps if we care about recycling, since those cant be sneakily burned and called “recycling”.
    This still isn’t ideal though, since the heavier packaging requires more fuel to drag around.

    If you actually care about reducing waste, you should be sterilizing a container and refilling it from a bulk package.
    A few grams of aluminized plastic for every 5 gallons of sauce is WAY less waste, even if you don’t try to recycle it.

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