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Heinz Launches New Ketchup On Facebook

10/26/2011

Heinz ketchup, first introduced in 1876 by Henry J. Heinz, is taking a very contemporary approach to the launch of its newest product. Heinz Tomato Ketchup Blended with Balsamic Vinegar, which substitutes balsamic for the traditional white vinegar, will first be available on Nov. 14 — but not in stores. Rather, consumers will be able to buy the ketchup only through the brand’s Facebook page until the product begins to appear in supermarkets in late December.

Facebook visitors will be encouraged to “experience the richer, more sophisticated side of America’s Favorite Ketchup.” In photographs, the new condiment will be paired with a more genteel class of food, such as “Haute Dog,” “Hamburgeur” and “French Frites.”

Heinz is the dominant brand, with a 59 percent share of the market, dwarfing store brands, which account for 21.8 percent, and Hunt’s, with 15.1 percent, according to data from Symphony IRI Group, whose totals do not include Wal-Mart.

Most interesting here is that Heinz, which has no immediate plans to advertise the product, has more than 825,000 followers on Facebook, where it hopes enthusiasts will spread the word about the purchase. This could set a precedence for brands using social media to generate word of mouth prior to selling via its long-term retail channel – grocers.

This has two opportunities for retail grocers. First, how do grocers piggy-back on the buzz that will be generated by the Heinz Facebook launch? And second, how does this impact grocers’ own social media strategy? Unfortunately most independent and small grocers have an underdeveloped social media strategy. And, while Target and Walmart have aggressive social media presence, it’s likely the Heinz launch will fly under the radar for those two retailers.

The Heinz launch should serve as a catalyst for grocers who have been tinkering around the edges of social media to jump in with both feet and start running with it.

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