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Tuesday, 11 July, 2000, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Heinz to launch green ketchup
Green Heinz tomato sauce
Going green: Heinz hopes customers will not see red
Food giant Heinz is launching a green coloured version of one of its most famous products - tomato ketchup.

The staple of thousands of British dinner tables is as famous for its bright red appearance as it is for taking an age to pour from the bottle.

Research tends to show they [children] don't like the colour green as they associate it with vegetables

Roz Denny
But in a bid to capture more of the younger market, the American firm will bring in a spinach-coloured version of the classic sauce in the US this October.

British teams will be monitoring the launch to see if we should follow suit over here.

The new sauce will be made from green tomatoes - popular in the United States - and include added vitamin C.

It is not the first time manufacturers have altered the colour of their products in an attempt to boost sales.

A few years ago blue Smarties were introduced into the tubes of sweets and have remained in place ever since while over the years custard has been a variety of eye catching shades from bright yellow to pink.

Colour confusion

However, while the company's child focus groups indicated children wanted to see the sauce in a new colour - blue was also considered - the change may shock some consumers.

The innovation raises the issue of how we perceive food and what we associate with different colours.

Child using green ketchup
Heinz wants to attract children to its product

Nigel Hemmington, head of Bournemouth University's School of Service Industries, said people's senses are sent into disarray when confronted with such unexpected stimuli.

He told BBC News Online: "Certainly when something doesn't look the colour we expect, it changes our perception of how it tastes."

But he doubted more companies would follow Heinz's suit because of the confusion it would cause customers.

He added: "Customers don't like being confused.

Customers don't like being confused

Nigel Hemmington,
Bournemouth University
"It may be that there is a certain novelty value attached to this, but unless companies can come up with products which are genuinely different there is no sense in muddling customers minds for the sake of it."

Food writer Roz Denny said manufacturers might struggle to capture children's imagination on this side of the Atlantic.

She said: "Research tends to show they don't like the colour green as they associate it with vegetables."

Ms Denny also said blue would have been a completely inappropriate colour choice for the new sauce.

She added: "I remember when I was at college and we did some blind tasting of foods. We found that people would not eat anything which was blue.

"Nobody could tell us why they did not like it apart from the fact that it was blue.

"We tried everything from blue bread to blue rice pudding but people just turned their noses up at it all.

Natural colours

"People tend to favour earthy colours such as browns and reds and they have become more suspicious of lurid colours."

She added: "Gold and red were always associated with festivities and richness. In the Far East when they prepared food for the gods they would always make it golden.

"Red also tends to remind us of summer and autumn when everything seems to be going well - it is a subconscious thing but I think we used to associate these colours with treats.

"Things are changing - you don't tend to see bright golden fish fingers or breadcrumbs any more. People tend to favour more natural colours."

The proof of the pudding may well be in the eating for the new sauce, as news of the colour change attracted further scepticism from nutritional scientist, Claire Maceivilly, of the British Nutritional Foundation.

Ms Maceivilly said: "Research has shown that children don't like green food they tend to go for red colours.

"In one study the only way they could convince the youngsters to eat cabbage was by adding tomatoes to make the food go red."

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