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Heinz Aims to Heat Up the Barbecue Sauce Category

Heinz is starting to promote its five new barbecue sauces, making a grilling-season push to stand out in a category that has been heating up with entries from smaller food makers.

Heinz, of course, is a dominant player in condiments with its ketchup. But when it comes to barbecue sauce, the brand had been sitting out. Much like last year, when it began a broader sales push for yellow mustard, it is trying to shake up the barbecue sauce segment with its new line.

“Consumers give us permission to stretch much further than just ketchup,” said Jessica Ryan, director of brand building for Heinz condiments and sauces, who has been part of both introductions.

Heinz started selling a “Classic Sweet & Thick” flavor and four others based on regional tastes earlier this year. The Kraft Heinz company already had Kraft branded barbecue sauces, but Ms. Ryan said there’s a place for each brand in the category, calling them “really differentiated” lines. “We do expect to be reaching a slightly different segment of the market,” she said.

Heinz found four pitmasters to help promote its four different regional tastes: Carolina, Kansas City, Memphis and Texas. They were already selling their own sauces, rubs and spices in their restaurants. Now, their signatures and stories appear on the Heinz bottles. They also star in the marketing push, which kicked off Thursday night with a “Jimmy Kimmel Live” segment. During the show, Robert Sierra of S&S Pit Crew served up some barbecue with his Texas style and the other sauces on display. A 30-second spot made its debut right after the in-show segment. The commercial shows the guys knowing a lot about barbecue, but not much about how to be spokesmen.

That ad and 15-second spots will start airing more broadly today, in time to get the brand in people’s minds as the spring grilling season sets in. David Miami handled creative with Starcom on media. David has been doing a lot of work for Heinz lately, including last year’s “Ketchup’s Got a New Mustard” and this year’s Super Bowl commercial.

Spending on the new campaign was not disclosed. Heinz spent more than $17.3 million on measured media for ketchup and mustard combined in 2015, according to data from Kantar Media, which excludes internet buys. Meanwhile, Kraft spent more than $7.4 million on measured media to promote barbecue sauce last year.

The push may help packaged foods behemoth Kraft Heinz draw attention away from pricier regional varieties in the crowded category. A quick check of a Chicago supermarket’s condiments aisle shows more than a dozen brands of BBQ sauce, some of which have several varieties under the same brand. Kraft itself promotes eight different barbecue sauces online, though not all stores carry each version.

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