It’s a remarkable milestone that many of us may not have realized—Heinz, the ubiquitous brand behind the world-famous ketchup, is celebrating its 154th year in 2023. While the crimson condiment may be what immediately comes to mind when we think of Heinz, this storied company has a history that stretches far beyond the tomatoey delight that adorns our burgers and fries. In honor of this remarkable anniversary, we invite you to delve into the fascinating world of Heinz and discover 12 facts that illuminate its illustrious journey.
1. The Roots of Heinz
Behind the brand, there’s a real Heinz. Henry J. Heinz, to be precise. He embarked on his entrepreneurial journey at a tender age, selling produce from his mother’s garden when he was just eight years old. In 1869, a young Heinz began selling sauces in clear bottles around Pittsburgh, setting the stage for a condiment empire.
2. The First Condiment
Contrary to popular belief, ketchup wasn’t the pioneer product. Heinz’s foray into the world of condiments began with horseradish, utilizing his mother’s recipe. This venture into savory sauces marked the genesis of Heinz’s culinary journey, which later encompassed pickles, vinegar, and chili sauce.
3. The Evolution of Ketchup
The iconic ketchup we know today had a humble beginning as “catsup.” Over the years, the bottles underwent a transformation, with various shapes and sizes. By 1906, Heinz settled on a shape that closely resembles the glass bottles we still find on store shelves today.
4. A Legacy of Quality Control
The term “quality control” that we often hear owes its origin to Heinz. In 1912, an employee and bacteriologist named Herbert Riley coined the phrase, underscoring Heinz’s commitment to excellence. Back in 1906, Heinz was among the few companies that supported the Pure Food and Drug Act, a pioneering legislation that set the standards for cleanliness in factories.
5. The Enigmatic “57 Varieties”
The enigmatic “57” emblazoned on Heinz bottles was actually a misnomer. By the time Heinz adopted this slogan, the company was already offering over 60 products. The inspiration for “57” came when Heinz saw a sign advertising “57 varieties of shoes” while on a train in New York City in 1896. With both he and his wife favoring the numbers 5 and 7, the phrase became iconic and remains on most Heinz products today.
6. A Pickle-Fueled Marketing Stunt
Heinz’s early marketing tactics included a colossal pickle billboard near New York City’s Flatiron building. At the 1893 Chicago World Fair, Heinz distributed free samples and pickle pins to entice visitors, despite their less-than-ideal booth location. More than a million people left with these iconic pins, a nod to one of Heinz’s earliest products: relish.
7. Ketchup: Fit for Space
Even astronauts crave ketchup. In 1999, NASA approved Heinz Tomato Ketchup for consumption onboard the International Space Station, a testament to the rigorous testing and quality standards that every item must meet.
8. The Heinz Museum
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is home to the Heinz History Center, which houses the largest collection of company artifacts globally. Among its treasures is a colossal ketchup bottle display crafted from regular-sized ketchup bottles.
9. Heinz in Pop Culture
From memorable commercials featuring stars like Matt LeBlanc and Carly Simon to mentions in songs, including Jimmy Buffett’s homage to a burger dressed with “Heinz 57,” Heinz has embedded itself firmly in pop culture. Even chart-topping musician Ed Sheeran sports a Heinz ketchup bottle tattoo on his arm!
10. A Healthier Ketchup
Acknowledging concerns about sugar content in ketchup, Heinz has diversified its offerings in recent years. The “Health and Wellness” ketchup line includes options such as no salt added bottles and sauces with reduced sugar, like Heinz Sweetened With Honey.
11. Innovations Galore
Heinz’s anniversary year saw the introduction of Mayomust and Mayocue, complementing the Mayochup product. These sauces, blending mayo with ketchup, mustard, or BBQ sauce, aim to make sandwich assembly and fry-dipping a breeze. Additionally, Heinz delighted fans with Ketchup Caviar for Valentine’s Day.
12. Global Domination
Heinz now boasts a staggering portfolio of more than 5,700 products available in 200 countries. While ketchup, mustard, and mayo reign supreme in the U.S., Heinz Baked Beans enjoy immense popularity across the pond in the UK. Sometimes, success in one region paves the way for expansion into new territories. Before Mayochup hit U.S. shelves, it was making waves in Dubai.
As we celebrate Heinz’s remarkable 154-year journey, it’s clear that this brand has not just stood the test of time but continues to innovate and evolve. From humble beginnings in Pittsburgh to a global condiment empire, Heinz’s legacy is a testament to the enduring love affair between consumers and the iconic red bottle. So the next time you reach for that bottle of Heinz ketchup, remember that you’re partaking in a tradition that spans over a century and a half—a tradition of flavor, quality, and innovation.