French's Ketchup Label - © French's Canada

Ketchup War Flares After Heinz Tweets ‘Homecoming’

Kraft/Heinz announced yesterday that it is bringing production of its iconic Ketchup back to a Canadian plant, again. It all started 6 years ago when Heinz sold its Canadian plant in Leamington, Ontario, and moved Ketchup production south of the border…

Classic Heinz Ketchup bottle - © Stewart WilliamsClassic Heinz Ketchup: In the iconic Heinz Bottle. Being made in
Canada, again. BTW: This archival photo is a little out of
date. Heinz reports it is now home to 67 varieties!

It was all just a tempest in a Ketchup Bottle, Heinz spokesperson Av Maharaj told The Canadian Press this week.

“We sold that [Leamington] facility to Highbury Canco and the next day we became — and still are — their largest customer.” And he confirmed that Heinz still uses more Leamington Tomatoes, “than the entire Canadian retail ketchup market combined” in its Pasta Sauces and Tomato Juice.

Alas, that was not made clear to the Tomato Farmers and Packing Plant Workers of Leamington and environs, and the Heinz Brand took a hit on social media.

But then…

In 2016, Loblaw’s, the largest grocery store chain in Canada, de-listed competing French’s Brand Ketchup from its inventory list in favour of the Heinz Ketchup products, and that triggered another social media storm. (Loblaw’s, cast as a co-conspirator in the ‘War’ against French’s Ketchup, eventually re-listed the Brand within a couple of weeks.) Again, The People got behind French’s, and French’s responded to their fandom in a complementary manner that symbiotic relationship continues to this day. This past summer, for example: French’s commissioned a new ‘Reggae-ish’ arrangement of the Canadian National Anthem, Oh Canada!, from indie band Walk Off the Earth and posted it for all to enjoy over the Canadian National Holiday, July 1. It became an instant hit.

Now, Heinz says it’s tweaking French’s nose again, bringing back Ketchup manufacturing to Canada, based at its Mont Royal plant in Montreal where the company already makes other products including Kraft Peanut Butter, Renee’s Dressing, Philadelphia Cream Cheese and KD Mac and Cheese, according to the company’s website. The change is the result of a joint investment between Kraft/Heinz Canada and the Quebec government, which will see $17 million invested in the Montreal plant.

Just for the record…

“The legacy of the Ketchup Wars is that, really, the entire Ketchup section of the grocery store is now much more Canadianized,” said Sylvain Charlebois, a Professor of Food Distribution and Policy at Dalhousie University. “Most brands are now manufactured in Canada with [Canada’s] maple leaf [national symbol] on it, including French’s.”

On the other hand, “Currently, about three out of every four bottles of ketchup sold in Canada are [still] made by Kraft/Heinz.”

The net result?

The Kraft/Heinz move will create an estimated 30 new jobs in Montreal, and Canadian Tomato sales to Heinz from Leamingon and area will remain unchanged.

My take?

It’s still really early, but I’m anxious to hear what the social media community has to say about this development. And will Loblaw’s revive its previous decision to de-list French’s Ketchup once Canadian-made Heinz brand Ketchup returns to the shelf? To paraphrase the well-known saying: “It ain’t over until the Fat Lady dresses her Hot Dog!”

More news as the story develops, right here at the Fabulous Food Blog!

~  Maggie J.