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  • designed for success

Q&A with Scott Norton, Co-founder of Sir Kensington’s Ketchup

Most ketchup brands speak to broad demographics and are afraid to take risks, whereas Sir Kensington’s appeals to people’s inner rule-breaker.

In a category dominated by a single iconic brand (Heinz), how have you managed to establish such a strong identity?

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From the beginning, we saw opportunity in the fact that Heinz defined the ketchup category, and all other ketchup brands copied their packaging, positioning, texture, and taste. Because our whole motivation was to create a product that was dramatically different and better, we also set out to position the packaging and brand in a distinctive way.

To do this, we snuck up on the challenge from behind, turning the different packaging conventions, brand language, and cultural elements upside down. Instead of a plastic bottle, we drew inspiration from artisanal preserves, choosing a glass jar, and instead of the product being indiscriminately squeezed, ours would be scooped or poured. Heinz owned “Americana” so we chose a British personality. Many Americans see Britain as a source of culture, and Europe has had a long-standing “authority” on food that we could channel through this articulation of the brand.

Beyond this, we focused on making sure Sir Kensington’s spoke from a clear and cohesive point of view, and communicated in a distinct and individualistic manner. Most commercial supermarket products speak to broad demographics and are afraid to take risks, whereas Sir Kensington’s appeals to people’s inner rule-breaker.

Photo credit: Meredith Jenks

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What was the most important consideration when designing your packaging? How do you feel this has driven impact in the marketplace?

Evoking an instantaneous emotional reaction is the most important goal when it comes to packaging, because the exterior of the package has to communicate the inner qualities of the product. For us, this means impressing that the product is premium, healthy, and progressive, all in a memorable way. Of course it’s also important to use the design language of the package shape so people know how to use the product and where and how it should fit in their life. Experientially, it has to be ergonomic, functional, and convenient to use. We have been improving all of these elements since launch.

These choices drive impact in the marketplace because ultimately people are drawn to products that they believe build and evolve their own identity. So by communicating emotionally, you’re able to draw people in so that they’re willing to try the taste—then once they taste it, that experience becomes much more important than the packaging.

How do you ensure that you remain progressive in your product design and effective in your marketing approach?

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We make sure that we’re asking the right questions in the prototyping and creative process. Are we filling a real consumer need? Are we doing justice to food’s role linking nature and culture? Are we moving food forwards, or backwards? Are we communicating authentically and timelessly, or are we giving in to consumer fads? These questions, paired with intuition and the (oft satirized) pride of craftsmanship, are crucial to consider before we go to market.

Your website features the story of Sir Kensington and his relationship to your product. How do you feel storytelling comes into play when reaching today’s consumer?

In a product like ours, people are looking for a sense of meaning and identity even beyond looking for utility and sustenance from food. Storytelling gives us opportunities to illustrate the kind of culture we represent, and to evoke imagination and meaning beyond the pure physical and sensory experience of a product. Food is community, personality, and entertainment—all things elemental to storytelling.

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What’s next for Sir Kensington’s?

I have always had the philosophy that business has the power to grow a small, good idea into a big idea . Right now we are working on growing our idea. Look out for our condiments in more grocery stores and on more restaurant tables through the country and let us know how you like them.

Scott Norton is the Co-Founder of Sir Kensington’s Ketchup.


Discover additional Designed For Success content here. Month 2 features Marawan El-Asfahani, Partner and CEO of Jacknife. Month 3 features ZeShan Malik, Co-Founder of Melee Media. Month 4 features Ayah Bdeir, Founder of littleBits.