A Way to Get Every Last Drop of Ketchup

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We all know the drill: You go to brush your teeth and, upon reaching for the toothpaste tube, notice it's nearly empty. But some part of you knows there’s enough in there for at least one more brush. You squeeze from the bottom of the tube, desperately hoping just one little drop of Crest will emerge.

Or how about this one: You sit down to a hot plate of french fries only to find that, by the time you’ve hit the ketchup bottle hard enough to produce enough of the condiment to coat about three fries, they’ve gone cold. How much time wasted? How much food wasted?! The struggle is real, and it’s a surprise no one has done anything about it until now.

Enter LiquiGlide, the brainchild of MIT dropout David Smith. He heard our distress calls and has answered them with a super-slippery coating that makes any viscous material—from toothpaste to peanut butter to wood glue—flow easily from a bottle. No more desperate tube-squeezing or violent bottle-shaking. Watch: 

The LiquiGlide coating serves as a slippery buffer between a surface and a liquid material. Smith and LiquiGlide’s president, Carsten Boers, describe the stuff as a “structured liquid” that is “rigid like a solid, but it’s lubricated like a liquid.” It can be sprayed on a surface to make it permanently wet.

But if we’re going to be putting this magical material in our ketchup bottles, can we be sure it’s safe to consume? Smith and Boers are secretive about the exact formula for LiquiGlide (“we’ve patented the hell out of it”), but say it's odorless, tasteless, and made of non-toxic FDA-approved materials. “The materials we use for the food coatings are actual food,” Boers told Fast Company

This week, the company announced an exclusive licensing agreement with Elmer’s Products Inc., the makers of every preschool kid’s favorite craft adhesive. “We certainly see a chance for a competitive advantage,” Anthony Spath, associate manager for innovation and business development at Elmer’s, told The New York Times

Here’s LiquiGlide at work on a bottle of glue:

“They actually sell more product—as the consumer always dispenses a full dosage, they actually empty the product quicker than without the coating,” Boers said. “It's an exceptional win-win: the consumer gets the product out easier and the brand sells more.” 

LiquiGlide’s goal, aside from making all our lives a little bit easier, is to reduce waste. They estimate they could save roughly one million tons of food from being thrown away each year if every sauce bottle were equipped with a layer of LiquiGlide’s coating. And the material has other potential applications, too, like preventing clogs in oil pipelines, keeping windshields crystal clear, and improving medical equipment. It can also do wonders for saving every last drop of paint in a bottle, and has licensed its technology to a packaging company in Australia with this idea in mind.

The exclusive deal with Elmer’s will likely be temporary to keep with LiquiGlide’s goal of reducing waste on a large scale. A LiquiGlide-treated mayonnaise bottle and a toothpaste tube could be on the market by 2017, and Smith says he expects his slippery invention “to be ubiquitous” in a few years.