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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

Squeeze Bottle Expectations

My wife and I were having lunch last week, and as she was scraping the last of the mayonnaise from the jar, she exclaimed with frustration, "I hate mayonnaise jars!"

This struck me as particularly amusing because I know for a fact she grew up with no other alternative: squeeze-bottles are relatively new, and until not so long ago, if we wanted what was left of the mayonnaise, our only option was to get a knife and scrape it from the jar.

We usually buy our mayonnaise in squeeze bottles to avoid such meal-making frustrations, but in our last grocery click-and-collect order, the store substituted what we had actually ordered with a plastic jar as if it was the same thing.

It's definitely not.

I'm not in the mayonnaise-selling business, so I can't tell you what percentage of sales come from squeezable bottles versus jars. But I'll bet that once a consumer has used mayo from a less messy, more convenient squeeze-bottle, then all other things being equal, that becomes greatly preferred to scraping mayo from a jar.

And I feel confident in that bet because, as it happens, all other things are not equal: a quick visit to will show that $5.27 currently gets you either 790ml of Hellman's 1/2 the Fat Mayonnaise Dressing in a squeezable bottle... or 890ml of the same product in a jar. Effectively, we're paying a 13% premium to avoid having to get, use, and subsequently wash a knife when we'd like to have some mayo in our sandwiches.

But we're happy to do it: the squeezable bottle has changed our expectations for the entire condiment category.

Let's think about some other companies that have changed category expectations.

  • Netflix threw the traditional "wait a week for the next episode" model out the window and began releasing full series all at once. That not only allowed me to watch as many episodes as I wanted in a single sitting but also made me frustrated with other entertainment providers who don't. (I'm looking at you, Apple, and may not ever forgive you for making me wait seven days between each Ted Lasso episode.)

  • Uber eliminated the need to frantically wave your hand in the air to catch a cab driver's attention. These days, most of us will use apps to order our rides in advance, and may not even consider using a ride service that didn't offer us that feature.

  • Amazon ships most of what I order to me within two days... which actually serves to make me frustrated with every other business that dares make me wait any longer than that for my online purchases.

These are just a few examples, but I'm sure you can think of more without much effort.

Innovation, done well, ultimately adjusts your consumers' expectations to the point where the products and services you offer are vastly preferred, and everything your competitors offer seems inferior by comparison.

Figure out how to become the squeeze-bottle mayonnaise for your category.

If you don't, inevitably, somebody is going to make you the mayonnaise jar.


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