Heinz: From viral products to 14-flavour condiments – how it’s looking to shock and delight

In recent months, Heinz has released a flurry of new products.

It has from jumped on popular cultural trends with Barbie-cue sauce, inked iconic brand partnerships with foodie favourites such as Morley’s Chicken, and experimented with weird and wacky flavours.

Just last week, the brand launched a limited edition 14-flavour condiment, combining all of its popular classics in one product – an eyebrow-raising feat sure to delight some and perhaps shock others. While this week, it took inspiration from TikTok’s viral recipes to launch a trio of new pasta sauces –  Tomato, Sicilian Lemon & Ricotta; Tomato, Black Garlic & Roasted Garlic; and Tomato & Spicy ‘Nduja.

Some of these products have been released as limited editions, both in-store and on Heinz’s website,  however, others have found their permanent place on supermarket shelves, replacing some of the classic staples.

We caught up with Heinz marketing and commercial director for northern Europe Thiago Rapp to find out what is the driving force behind these exciting – and sometimes wacky – creations, and how Heinz is using NPD to carve itself a new relevancy among consumers from all demographics.

Heinz marketing and commercial director for northern Europe Thiago Rapp on using NPD to carve a new relevancy while remaining accessible.

Heinz marketing and commercial director for northern Europe Thiago Rapp.

Heinz has a particularly difficult task, Rapp explains. On one hand, it has loyal consumers, to which its classic products are always a hit, but on the other hand, it has the challenge of continuing to keep a 150-year-old brand relevant.

Despite being in 9 out of 10 households across the UK, it also wants to better position itself for the burgeoning Gen Z market – hence the flurry of new products.

Recipe-inspired NPD

The product ideation process varies, with Rapp insisting “there is no one formula”.

It can be prompted by customer insight and looking at what recipes people are concocting– such as the trend of Gigi Hadid’s vodka pasta leading to a collaboration between Absolute Vodka and Heinz on a sauce. Or, in the case of Cathedral Cheesy Beans, the product was inspired by customers who often pair these two foods.

“We’re industrialising, or recreating recipes from what consumers are mixing our products with,” says Rapp.

“We know that there’s a lot of people and they are doing beans on toast, and putting cheese on it. So we asked ourselves, why can’t we replicate this in a very innovative way our product so that it is mixing the two products they are already consuming.”

Heinz

This is the same ideation process behind Heinz’s two recent innovation – Pickle Heinz Tomato Ketchup and Bacon Heinz Tomato Ketchup.

“A top favourite in burgers is pickle and bacon. So we’re really trying to see how people pair our products with in order to recreate interesting innovations. We’re starting to look at our consumers and see how they are behaving with the product, how they’re pairing the product and how they consume it as well.”

Brand collaborations and cultural trends

Brand collaborations can also be led through evaluating occasion-based products. Rapp said Heinz found that chicken was now more popular than fish and chips – a revelation that narrowed down any brand collaborations to specific partners to engage with that target audience.

The result was Heinz and Morley’s Fried Chicken partnership – a delicious chicken-shop-inspired condiment. It started as a limited edition product but its immediate success landed it a permanent place in Heinz’s ever-expanding portfolio.

Other times new launches are simply the product of successfully identifying cultural moments. One of the most recognisable examples is Barbie-cue sauce, a tie-up with Mattel over the 2023 release of its Barbie The Movie. This involved brand licencing, with Mattel’s iconic Barbie pink shade trademarked and unsurprisingly in high demand that summer, but this was too big of an opportunity to miss, says Rapp.

“We’ve been trying to move at the speed of culture,” he says. “Such as Taylor Swift’s ‘Ketchup and Seemingly Ranch’ that we launched in the US. Taylor Swift appeared in a post with some ketchup and ranch together and so we came to create a product in 24 hours for that.”

“We’re trying to identify some interesting culturally relevant moments that we can [capitalise on] through limited editions. And we know that it’s a one-off because then you have the next trending thing.”

Rapp says its a balancing act to determine the fast-moving cultural trends and those that are here to stay.

Barbie Heinz

However, Heinz is certainly nailing the viral product with its Barbie-cue sauce selling out in 48 hours, while its Morley’s collaboration became one of the top 3 most successful launches in the category.

Heinz X Absolut Tomato and Vodka Pasta Sauce also proved to be popular, selling out on its direct-to-consumer (D2C) website HeinztoHome.co.uk in 10 minutes. The buzz generated from the product also saw the hashtag #absolutelyheinz go viral, and reach 6.6m views on TikTok alone.

The brand says the campaign drove a 52% sales uplift for the entire Heinz pasta sauces range, making it the number one brand in market share during that period, which caused the limited-edition product to become its third highest-selling product – just behind its flagship ketchup and baked beans.

Meanwhile, the campaign also delivered on the objective of driving new and younger shoppers to the category, with over 60% of sales being incremental to the current category buyers.

The fresh innovation is also breathing new life into Heinz’s traditional range, with limited editions and new variants bringing excitement to the category, as seen with its brand collaboration with Richmond Sausages, where the two new flavours – Richmond pork sausages with Heinz Beans and Heinz Spaghetti – are set to replace Heinz’ former sausage and spaghetti products.

Heinz has launched a trio of new TikTok-inspired pasta sauces as it aims to cater to new consumers by bringing a "culinary twist to the kitchen".

Heinz has launched a trio of new TikTok-inspired pasta sauces as it aims to cater to new consumers by bringing a “culinary twist to the kitchen”.

Juggling innovation with accessibility

There are, Rapp admits, headwinds that Heinz, like all grocery brands, is facing.

Earlier this year Kraft Heinz was one of three FMCGs questioned in a parliamentary inquiry regarding fairness in the supply chain. Here MPs scrutinised representatives of Unilever, Arla Foods and Heinz to ask, among other questions, what can be done to lower prices for branded products in an era where many UK households were still feeling the squeeze from the cost-of-living crisis.

This is a challenge, Rapp says that Heinz is aware of and constantly looking for ways to overcome: “We’re playing a lot with what we call our RGM (Revenue Growth Management).

“So we have different pack sizes, with different like cost per kilo, so then we can play with smaller products that have a unit price that is smaller for the consumer. For example, you can buy ketchup for two pounds, but you also can go into larger formats, such as one kilo so that the cost per volume is a little bit smaller.

Heinz

“This means the consumer can decide a little bit how to play within the different ranges and sizes that we have in our portfolio,” he says.

Rapp continues to explain that RGM is accompanied by campaigns across Heinz’s range. For example, last month it ran a 50% off campaign, where shoppers could find discounted products in many of its big retailer partners nationally, through tie-ups with loyalty cards like Nectar and Clubcard.

“It’s making sure that we’re investing in our brands and in our products more than ever, to keep them relevant and to really keep the categories exciting. And we see that innovation drives growth. We’re really trying to grow through innovation and continue to bring superiority and show our products.

“But we are also aware of the inflationary momentum in the cost of living so we’re trying within our range in the promotional execution to bring some accessibility to our products.”

Ultimately, Rapp says, the true goal is about bringing a “smile” to Heinz consumers.

“We’re investing a lot in innovations in quality and taste, to make sure that we’re delivering the best products to consumers. We are investing a lot in our brands and in how we can keep relevant to them – how we can bring joy, and spark a smile.”

“We’re really using creativity to create engagement with the consumers and keep relevant and to elevate taste.”

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • I think d key is co venient. A balance meal yet drlicious gakes a lotmof effort to make itnhappen. Meanwhike the etc etc sure essier to happrn, but is it really good for oen hewlth? What one might thought is hewlthy, is it? And in order to eat ” delicious” food, one has to be unhealthy..so which? Many i nocrnt one still, ofc choose delicious…from my eyes, just a bowl of lard and wac smell . Not referring to heinz but the choice of consumers …

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