- Unilever is introducing a Hellmann’s-brand ketchup for the first time in the U.S., according to a company release.
- The new Hellmann’s REAL Ketchup is sweetened with honey and contains six ingredients: tomato puree, honey, white wine vinegar, onion powder, spices, and salt. The company notes it is not made with high fructose corn syrup, GMO ingredients, artificial ingredients or preservatives, and says the product was “an opportunity to elevate an American staple by stripping it down to only the most essential ingredients”.
- The new ketchup is available nationwide in 14 oz., 20 oz. and 32 oz. bottles, and will retail under the Best Foods brand west of the Rocky Mountains.
Hellmann’s REAL ketchup is Unilever’s second foray into ketchup in the U.S. after it acquired premium condiments maker Sir Kensington’s in April last year. The consumer goods giant had just fended off a takeover bid from Kraft Heinz – widely considered an untouchable leader in the U.S. ketchup category with its Heinz brand – and rebuffed rumors that it would sell its food business altogether by doubling down on condiments and investing in other flagship brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Lipton.
Sir Kensington’s was a major disruptive force in the condiments aisle, gaining prime shelf space with its all-natural mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup and vegan ‘fabanaise.' For Unilever, which already owns America’s best-selling Hellmann’s mayonnaise, the Sir Kensington’s product provided an easier point of entry to the premium condiments market than developing its own competing premium ketchup. Indeed, acquiring smaller, disruptive brands has become an industry trend, as the big players look to access the values and health credentials of craft producers.
Now Unilever is looking at the other side of the coin. Having taken on the disruptive brand, it appears to have learned what works and tweaked the formula. With Hellmann’s REAL ketchup, it leverages the opposite of small brand integrity, instead taking advantage of its big brand reputation.
The product is similar to its Sir Kensington’s brand, but not identical. While Sir Kensington’s prides itself on authenticity and the integrity of its ingredient list, the new Hellmann’s ketchup reflects a more mainstream version of this trend – a general desire for more natural and fewer ingredients. In addition, it plays on consumers’ perception of honey as a healthier sweetener, despite providing more calories from sugars than sugar-sweetened Sir Kensington’s.