Chocolate is brown, mustard is yellow, and ketchup is red—or so goes conventional wisdom. But in 2000, one condiment giant decided to give “America’s Favorite Ketchup” a Technicolor makeover. What resulted was one of the oddest food fads in recent memory.
Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the H. J. Heinz company has been manufacturing its famed tomato ketchup since 1876 and currently sells over 650 million bottles of the stuff every year. However, at the turn of the millennium, the corporation decided to experiment with their popular formula in a way few could’ve expected.
A new product—dubbed “Heinz EZ Squirt”—came bottled with a specialized “kid-friendly” nozzle. Yet it wasn’t the packaging that caught the media’s attention. It was the coloring. Spinach-colored “Blastin’ Green” ketchup was one of the varieties offered in the EZ Squirt line and became an instant hit, especially with kids.
“We’re on track to ship in the first 90 days what we thought we would sell in the first year,” said global ketchup managing director Casey Kelley prior to the novelty condiment’s highly-anticipated launch. “This thing has taken on a momentum of its own, striking a chord with kids and people in general.” Heinz was quick to capitalize on its early success by releasing additional colors such as orange, purple, teal, blue, and pink. Ultimately, a staggering 25 million units were sold.
So why can’t you still buy these today? Regrettably, EZ ketchup sales began to dwindle after their initial boom and the line was discontinued in 2006. According to marketing expert Calvin L. Hodock, “Kids tired of it, being the fickle little devils that they are. And moms got tired of seeing two or three half-finished ketchup bottles lying around in the fridge.”
In 2012, Burger King teamed up with Heinz to resurrect the “green ketchup” concept, this time as part of a St. Patrick’s Day promotion in which free fries were given away with packets of the emerald sauce. As of this writing, neither company has announced plans to revive the gimmick in the foreseeable future.