Sauce packets, the dabbles of vinegar and tomato puree that make up ketchup, the emulsified eggs and oil bound together in the average mayonnaise (admit it, you use these for fries) or the soy sauce from your last takeout order, seem to be the Forrest Gump of the fast food world. With every milestone or major industry event, they sit there, in the background.
Yet, these small bits of plastic are a whole industry unto themselves. Before they started clogging up your silverware drawer, they represented a kind of packaging innovation.
Take the Heinz packet. Much like the magnetic stripe on your average credit card, they’re newer than you think. The first Heinz ketchup packet didn’t come about until 1968, getting beat to the market by soy sauce packets, which came about roughly a decade earlier. And their size seems comically small, but that’s no accident. According to Marketplace, food companies are very particular about the size of their ketchup packets over the years.