Gourmet ketchup? A capital idea!

I was having lunch with Scott one auspicious day when he asked me, “How many gourmet mustards can find in a supermarket? And how many gourmet ketchups?” It’s unlikely you got past Heinz yourself on the second one. After that, I got to thinking: why is it that I can stroll into Whole Foods and be entirely overwhelmed by the diverse array of mustards (whole grain, dijon, upmarket, hot dog brand, etc…), yet I see only one successful ketchup?

I believe that there is a demand for a luxury-level ketchup, one that is positioned upmarket in a similar fashion to Grey Poupon. The concept of “trading up” is demonstrably successful, and there should be no reason why ketchup would be immune to this principle. Ketchup is an incredibly versatile condiment, one that gels well with more than just burgers and fries. High-end restaurants may even have the desire to serve ketchup, but are reluctant to place a bottle of Heinz on the table because of the message it may send. What if there were an gourmet alternative, a ketchup so oozing with class and sophistication that not only did it come with specialized silver serving bowls, but also tuxedo-adorned butlers to serve it?

To this end, I’ve embarked on the perilous journey to create a gourmet ketchup with Scott. Its name: Sir Kensington’s Gourmet Scooping Ketchup. Its website: SirKensingtons.com. As you can see, we’re all about high-end branding. Please also enjoy our business card design to the right (and ask me for a card if you see me around).

Our first step in this ludicrous journey was to come up with a product, and as we all know, focus groups are the best way to go for this. So we did what anyone would do: we hosted a ketchup tasting party. We made eight different ketchups, using 6 different recipes, over 40 different ingredients (including raw ginger and chipotle peppers), all in a bit over 10 hours of cooking time.

The tasting party was a resounding success (as were the invitations for the party, which can be found here), and the results were very interesting. We created eight ketchups total: 3 variations on standard ketchup, 3 spiced ketchups, and 2 blond ketchups. We handed out surveys to everyone at the tasting in order to judge which ketchups were successes and which weren’t, and in the end the responses were across the board: people don’t all like the same thing, and sometimes people don’t even know what they like themselves. To make things even more confusing, we also had Heinz present as a control, and few even realized it was Heinz!

This ketchup venture is nowhere near over, but rather is just beginning. I’ll keep you all updated as we progress down this rabbit hole, and there will likely be more tasting parties in the near future. We’ll see where this all takes us. In the meantime, below are some choice photo selections from the tasting party, and the entire gallery can be found here.

Mark posted this on February 26, 2008 and is filed under Manningham's Jabs.

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