But we thought the whole point of ketchup was to take forever to come out of the bottle

Bonus: Fewer royalty payments to Carly Simon.

The Boston Business Journal profiles a Cambridge startup that has come up with a coating it says will make condiment bottles less sticky - reducing waste from ketchup, mayo and mustard that now just stays inside. The company says the coatings - which would combine a specially-textured surface with a lubricant - could also have applications in other fields - for example, for medical devices that you don't want getting sticky or airplane wings that you'd want to stay free of ice.



Free tagging: 


    Remember seeing this a year ago

    Remember seeing these bottle coatings at least a year ago. They approached several condiment producers and all showed no interest.

    The reason is easy to figure out: these companies make money by you needing to buy the condiment more often. The price your paying per ounce seems decent, but you're not getting all of your ounces.


    I think it's more likely

    I think it's more likely because most ketchup and mustard comes in squeeze bottles these days. I literally can't remember the last time I saw a glass ketchup bottle, and the ketchup comes out as soon as you squeeze it in a plastic bottle.

    Whatever the reason, there's no reason to get all conspiracy-theory. They're not making extra money on that last quarter-ounce of ketchup in the bottle (they still have to put it in the bottle; do they make extra money because you buy the next bottle one day earlier than you would otherwise???), they just don't see any reason to spend extra money to solve a "problem" that has never, to my knowledge, prevented anyone from buying their product. When was the last time you heard someone say "I stopped using ketchup because it took too long to get out of the bottle"?


    Left out the rest

    Yes, there is the cost of adding the coating. Forgot to add that part. Now, if they pay to add the coating, they're making less profit. Unless it is reflected in their prices. But if they get the coating, and their competitors don't, will the competitors be undercutting them because all people see is the cheaper price? So their competitors are selling bottles more often and cheaper. I've never had a squeeze bottle that didn't leave some globs on the side. And a lot of restaurants still use the glass bottles.

    I mean, it may in fact be logical to make the leap into LiquiGlide, but... are companies going to risk their pennies?


    Every Bottle of Hienz

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    you buy lines the pockets of a liberal elitist tax cheat named John Kerry.


    We really don't need more

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    We really don't need more "stuff" in what's already only half food to begin with.


    Some misunderstandings in (original) UHub article and comments

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    (Adam has updated the article with a more accurate description now.)

    The LiquidGlide tech is not "based on vegetable oil", although oils or other lubricating fluids are a part of their technology. The key invention of Prof. Kripa Varanasi's group (which has now been spun off as the LiquidGlide company) is a process of precision nanoscale texturing of a container's surface so that it grips a super-thin layer of lubricant and does not give it up. So the substance inside the container slides over the lubricant and the lubricant stays where it is and isn't dispensed along with it.

    It's the nanotexturing process that is the new and valuable thing that is making them money. The lubricants involved are variable depending on the material of the container and the substance being dispensed.


    Ok, the commentors are also a bit confused. First, LiquidGlide has not been rebuffed by the market, as the first commentor cynically assumed - quite the opposite. They have a lot of clients already. I doubt they ever tried to sell the tech straight out to a single company - that's not how MIT generally does things. It's more profitable to start a new company, license the tech broadly, and later perhaps have the company acquired by a larger enterprise. One can make the case (and MIT does) that this strategy of monetizing new tech ultimately improves the human condition more quickly and thoroughly.

    It's only been a couple years since they demonstrated this tech successfully. Spinning it out into a company with the capability to licensing and deploy it in the real world so quickly is pretty impressive.

    Wrt to the ketchup bottle example - the condiment idea is a fun one, and allows people to easily imagine the effect and appeal of the tech, but yes - it's not the most profound application. It likely is profitable, mind you, since Heinz et al sell a lot of ketchup, so saving a couple pennies on each bottle is real money in their pocket. Now think about something like a bottle of luxury hair conditioner and you can see the captured value could really add up quickly.

    However, the obvious big winners with this tech will be medicine and general manufacturing. If you make a pharmacuetical that costs $200 per ounce, you better believe that getting those last few drops out of the bottle is a massive win.

    And this tech will also mean windows that don't fog up, gears that don't grind dry, non-toxic non-stick cookware, etc etc. It's going to be everywhere in a decade.


    "rebuffed by the market"

    LiquidGlide has not been rebuffed by the market, as the first commentor cynically assumed

    This was directly based off of what I read in an article about a year ago. Several of the big players declined interest. Allegedly. Maybe the article was incorrect, maybe it was stretching some statements, who knows. But I didn't just "assume" that it happened. How could I just "assume" such a thing?


    I don't know, maybe by

    giving credibility to allegations by an unnamed "article", the author of which could be anyone from a Nobel Laureate to a Boston Herald commenter? You yourself admitted the article may have been total bullshit. Sure sounds like an assumption to me. And you know what happens when you "assume"...

    I did not make the assumption

    I did not make the assumption that several large condiment producers declined the technology. I read it. A year ago. From an article. Not a Herald comment. This isn't some sort of conspiracy here, the only thing I did was reason out why they would do this based on information I had read.

    Thank you for assuming that I simply assumed -- somehow -- that several companies turned down the technology. And you know what happens when you "assume"...

    Let me add to my above

    Let me add to my above comment: I'm "ewwing" an application in food, but I can absolutely see the benefits in a medical setting. I just don't want goop added to my ketchup.


    Updated the post

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    Thanks for the clarification on the technology. Based on their site, looks like a liquid is involved, but that, as you said, the real key is the surface layer used to hold the liquid.


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    So if this is part of the container, what is the ramification upon its ability to be recycled? Would it make the container unsuitable for recycling?

    For food containers? Possibly

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    It would depend on the particular application. As I pointed out above, it's not the lubricant or even the surface material that is new or unique - those can vary widely depending on what works for a specific application. The product LiquidGlide is licensing is the technique by which they texture the solid so that it holds onto a super-fine layer of lubricant - whatever is in the bottle flows out more easily/completely, but the lubricant stays put.

    I'd imagine in many cases, the solid part can be the actual packaging material or something very much like it, and any lubricant left behind would be removed by the same cleaning/depolymerization that is used nowadays on recyclable containers with traces of goop in them.


    Colin Quinn joke

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    Reminds me of a Colin Quinn joke from 2004: "John F. Kerry is the only candidate who has to pat his wife on the bottom to get her to put out."