The Summer of the Squeeze Bottle Is Here
Every line cook’s favorite vessel is now housing olive oil, hot sauce, and even pancake batter.
It’s the summer of the squeeze bottle. Whether you’re looking for a teriyaki-ish barbecue sauce, hot sauce from a classic or newer brand, olive oil, or even fancy dijon mustard, all of these condiments can be found within the thin walls of a satisfying squeeze bottle.
It’s not like squeeze bottles are anything particularly new. There are the red and yellow matching sets that have been relegated to American diners and baseball stadiums for decades. Sriracha, the popular hot sauce brand, has always been known for its squeezable form and signature green tip. And, before squeeze bottles forayed into the condiment space, they’ve always been in restaurant kitchens, an extension of the body for line cooks.
“It’s the health code in our area not to have glass on the line due to safety issues,” explains Ji Hye Kim, the chef and founder of Miss Kim in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Besides the health code, squeeze bottles are easier to handle and you can deploy sauces faster and more accurately.” Kim ensures that at her restaurant, the squeeze bottles aren’t deployed for perfectly precise dots or artistic, edible paintings. “But we do have our hearts set on having just the right amount of hot sauce on our buns and to have it fast. Squeeze bottles help with that.”
Although there’s a longstanding tradition of squeeze bottles in fast-paced kitchens, a lot of legacy condiment brands are ditching their glass bottle for a squeezable version as well, ensuring that the vessels are part of future pantries everywhere. Such was the case for Tabasco, the famed hot sauce brand that switched over its sweet chili sauce from glass bottle to squeeze bottle.
“We heard from our fans that they loved the flavor of our sweet & spicy sauce but that it didn’t come out fast enough, given its thickness, from our standard glass bottle,” says Lee Susen, the chief sales and marketing officer at McIlhenny Company, which owns Tabasco.
Additionally, because the sauce is much milder than regular Tabasco, a quick dash is not enough—consumers want to drizzle, and drizzle generously. “It’s definitely a bit of form meets function,” Susen adds. “Squeezing the perfect drizzle of hot sauce on a dish can easily elevate an at-home meal and makes for picture-perfect sharing on social, which we know drives so much of the food conversation today.”
Al Bourbouhakis, co-founder and owner of new hot sauce brand, Heartbeat Hot Sauce, took the same approach for his product. “When it comes to condiments, especially hot sauce, using too much can really ruin your meal,” he says. “The squeeze bottle allows for the perfect clean and controlled application—and we all know too well from the old glass ketchup bottles that sometimes it's a true battle to get that sauce moving.”
But it’s not just about the neatness or usability of squeeze bottles for Bourbouhakis. “Another major benefit is the lighter and less breakable nature of plastic squeeze bottles. Cost saving is a huge priority and shipping heavy glass that doesn’t sell for any more than plastic does, plus the risk of breakage, are major expenses that can be reduced,” he explains. All of the hot sauces of Heartbeat Hot Sauce, including the Scorpion, which appears on hit YouTube show Hot Ones, come in slim squeeze bottles.
The sturdiness of plastic squeeze bottles might be one of the major benefits, but it’s also one of the main critiques: the influx of plastic use. “You can possibly make an argument that glass is better for the environment than plastic, but restaurants do not buy multiples of retailed sized bottles—we buy condiments and sauces in bulk, then portion them into plastic squeeze bottles,” Kim says.
Andrew Benin, the CEO and founder of olive oil brand Graza, who modeled his squeeze bottle application after line cooks, acknowledges that the plastic versus glass debate. “But single-use packaging in general is fucked up,” he says, “whether it’s metal, tin, plastic, or glass bottles, our recycling streams are not set up for it. So for us, there are way too many functional benefits to the plastic squeeze bottle because our primary goal in business is to get people to consume more delicious, fresh olive oil for the best price.”
Although slim squeeze bottles are infiltrating the condiments market, the squeeze will surely be making its way through new products. (It’s already transitioned over to breakfast, with squeezable pancake batter from Happy Grub.) Time will tell what else will undergo a squeeze bottle transformation but, for now, we’re enjoying squeezing our way through summer.