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Can this start-up ‘catch up’ to Heinz?

Power Pitch

Two best friends are on a mission to reinvent a kitchen staple—that hasn’t changed in more than 50 years.

“We’re making ketchup interesting again,” said co-founder Scott Norton.

CNBC gave Norton and co-founder Mark Ramadan 60 seconds to Power Pitch their condiment company Sir Kensington’s to executive chef and restaurateur Michael Psilakis, Chop’t Creative Salad Company CEO Nick Marsh and CNBC host and foodie Dominic Chu. See whether they gave them a thumbs up or just a bunch of rotten tomatoes in the above video!

Back to basics

The co-founders met while studying at Brown University and discovered they both shared a love for food.
During their senior year, in 2004, they came across an article in the New Yorker about consumers’ perception of Heinz as the superior ketchup.  To them, the idea that ketchup could only have one universally loved formula was fundamentally flawed—and they saw an opportunity.

“Ketchup is in 97 percent  of American homes,” said Ramadan. “It’s a multibillion dollar market and it hasn’t evolved in 50 years.”

After experimenting with their own recipes using all natural ingredients (no preservatives or chemicals) and seeing people’s enthusiasm for the product, Norton and Ramadan quit their finance jobs to pursue the start-up full-time.

Condiment competition

“Sir Kensington’s is different than normal ketchup because we use real ingredients such as organic sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup,” said Ramadan. “It’s like the difference between Sunny Delight and fresh squeezed orange juice.”

According to a market research report by Global Industry Analysts, the global ketchup market will reach $3.3 billion in 2015. The report says the growth of the industry will be from a growing population as well as people consuming exotic flavors and gourmet varieties.

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The co-founders haven’t stopped with ketchup. They have also developed classic and chipotle mayos, and they will be introducing a dijon and spicy brown mustard as well as a sriracha mayo this year.

Sir Kensington’s has some steep competition from Heinz, Nestle (NESN), which makes Maggi ketchup, as well as ConAgra Foods (CAG), which owns Hunt’s ketchup and Gulden’s mustard.  And in the category of mayo—Unilever’s (UL) Hellman’s is another giant competitor.

Panelist Psilakis asked how they could persuade a person to pay more for Sir Kensington’s.

The founders explained that their strategy for distribution is through retail and the service industry, like restaurants and hotels. For them it’s all about context. If their brand is being introduced to customers at a restaurant, they believe the customer will associate the quality of the ketchup with the quality of the restaurant and experience.  

“We’re going after a market that is looking for something different, that’s looking for something better,” said Norton.

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The ketchups retail for $4.99 and their mayo and mustards for $5.99. The founders told CNBC they are in more than 3,000 stores and 300 restaurants including PJ Clarkes, ABC Kitchen and Four Seasons Hotels.

They plan to double the number of restaurants this year and expand their retail strategy. Norton told CNBC the company has doubled, sometimes tripled revenue each year over the past three years and growth continues to accelerate.  However he would not disclose exact revenue numbers.

Sir Kensington’s was founded in 2010 and has raised approximately $10 million from investors Rohan Oza, Tim Draper, Ron Conway and Ryan Schinman.

See Scott Norton and Mark Ramadan Power Pitch their start-up Sir Kensington’s to executive chef and restaurateur Michael Psilakis, Chop’t Creative Salad Company CEO Nick Marsh and CNBC host Dominic Chu.

-Additional Reporting by Joanna Weinstein and Kelly Lin

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