VISIONARY: H.J. Heinz Co.
Throughout the years, innovations in packaging have helped H.J. Heinz Co. grow from a local enterprise to a global giant that today employs about 32,000 people.
Listen as Michael Okoroafor, the company's vp-global packaging R&D/Innovation—and vocal packaging evangelist—takes to the pulpit...
Q: What has been one of the most remarkable recent advancements in packaging and how has it benefitted the industry?
A: There are actually two things.
One, packaging has become our biggest media. When you go into a store and you see packaging, think about it...there is this emotional connection that people have with packaging. How does packaging do that? It's appealing to your five senses.
That consumer interaction, that connection with the consumer has become the most remarkable achievements in the packaging world for the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. The industry has benefited because it's allowed us to differentiate and improve our margins.
Consequently, we're not only creating value for the consumer, we're also creating value for our shareholders.
The second one is this concept of sustainability.
Sustainability is not just about saving the planet. It's about doing the right thing. People can see that you're thinking beyond where we're at today and preserving the planet as we make inroads. By doing that, we lower our footprint, our impact on the environment.
Q: What consumer trend(s) will have the most impact on how products are packaged in the future and why?
A: Convenience and on the go-no question about it. But what will drive packaging for the consumer in the future is this issue of affordability.
Every time we use the word affordability, people think we're talking about things being cheap. That's not what we are talking about.
Packaging is simply a delivery vehicle for providing consistent quality to the consumer. The most challenging thing is the ability to deliver food to the consumer when they want it, where they want it and at an affordable price. It has to span the entire demographic. It's not just for the affluent or the middle class. It's also for the struggling class. So that issue of creating value in the consumer's mind-value perception-is going to drive packaging and products in the future.
Q: What do you like best about working in the packaging industry?
A: This is one of the most incestuous industries, which means there is a lot of camaraderie and a lot of leverage and knowledge that goes around. If you've been around this industry as I have been, you find out it becomes a family. People want to do the right thing, and they're more interested in advancing the profession rather than themselves.
A good example is the partnership between Heinz and Coca Cola on the PlantBottle, which is a major renewable material platform. This partnership is showing the rest of the industry how to collaborate and make a positive impact on society. You heard that we've extended that to include P&G, Nike and Ford. When have you seen those five major power brands come together working? This is good to see. And I think it's an emerging trend in the industry. That's what I like most about working in this industry. It's not just about a professional group or professional connections—it's about making the right impact for mankind.
Right first time
Few food companies enjoy a history as savory as the H.J. Heinz Co. Founded in 1869, the company today enjoys robust sales in markets all around the world. Its products hold the No. 1 or No. 2 market share in more than 50 countries. While best known for its ketchup, Heinz owns a number of other power brands, including Ore-Ida, Weight Watchers and Classico.
1983 - Heinz develops the first squeezable multilayer plastic bottle for ketchup.
2001 - Heinz introduces a 3-oz "Flavor Fresh" retort pouch for StarKist Tuna, a brand it owned at the time. The convenient-anywhere pouch is easy to tear open so consumers don't need a can opener, and they don't have to drain the tuna.
2003 - Available in 20- and 32-oz sizes, Easy Squeeze! is Heinz's first inverted ketchup bottle. It uses a diaphragm closure so the condiment doesn't come out until the bottle is squeezed. The upside-down bottle gained 11 percent of U.S. dollars spent on ketchup in its first 12 weeks of introduction.
2004 - Ore-Ida Extra Crispy Easy Fries has a Crisp & Serve tray built into the carton so the fries get crisp when heated in the microwave.
2006 - The Heinz Fridge Door Fit ketchup bottle is right-sized so it can be stored in a refrigerator door shelf. The wide, flat, flip-top cap has a latch-back feature so it doesn't get in the way during dispensing. It wins a DuPont Award and an AmeriStar Award from the Institute of Packaging Professionals.
2007 - Heinz introduces shelf-stable 4-pack Snap Pots for single-serve, 200g portions of beans and pasta products. They can be broken apart (similar to yogurt multipacks) and heated in the microwave.
As part of its sustainability program, the company test markets trays made from recycled pulp and cartons that are not chemically bleached for its frozen Boston Market meals.
2008 - Ore-Ida launches Steam n' Mash bag. Scrubbed, peeled and chopped potatoes are packaged in a microwavable standup pouch.
2010 - Heinz removes bisphenol-A (BPA) from liners in cans sold in Australia, the U.K. and Ireland.
The new Heinz Dip & Squeeze product marks the first ketchup packet makeover for the foodservice industry in 42 years. It features two dispensing functions: a peel-back opening designed to allow easy dipping of foods into the condiment; and a tear-off tip to squeeze the condiment onto foods outside the packet.
2011 - Heinz announces plans to convert all 20-oz ketchup bottles to PlantBottle packaging in the U.S. this summer. The new packaging is the result of a strategic partnership between the Coca-Cola Co. and Heinz.
2012 - The Coca-Cola Co., Ford Motor Co., H.J. Heinz Co., NIKE Inc. and Procter & Gamble form the Plant PET Technology Collaborative (PTC), a strategic working group focused on accelerating the development and use of 100 percent plant-based PET materials and fiber in their product packaging.
Heinz joins the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment (AMERIPEN) as a voting member.