Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Heinz - The Ketchup People

Today's topic came about by accident.  I was listening to the Splendid Table radio show on Public Radio this morning and someone mentioned Celery Sauce that used to be made by Heinz.  Celery Sauce?  So off I went to learn about it and in the process, I learned more about the company that made it and is famous for making ketchup.  I can tell you right now, ketchup was not their first product.

Bread, Ketchup, Red, Face, Smiley, SmileToday, I'm looking at the company itself because I found it's history so interesting.   Henry Heinz born in 1844 to German immigrants in Pennsylvania.  By the age of 12, he was already an entrepreneur selling vegetables to his regular customers.

What set him on the road to manufacturing condiments boils down to safety.  Apparently most condiments made back then had things like lead, ground stone, turnips, and wood pulp added and were sold in colored glass bottles so you couldn't see the quality of the product before buying.

So as a teenager, he began creating a bottled horseradish based on his mothers recipe, without fillers,  and put in clear glass bottles.  He advertised his sauce as pure and he could prove it with the fact you can see what you are buying.  By 1861, he was raising 3.5 acres of horseradish and using that to meet the demand.

He and John Noble became partners in 1869, expanded, and created pickles, horseradish, and vinegar.  That's right!  Vinegar so they could control the quality of the vinegar used in their own products and they went ahead and sold it to the public. 

Unfortunately due to the economic climate, his company declined and he and his partner had to declare bankruptcy.  It wasn't long after that he realized he could produce ketchup, a very important cooking condiment, so he got funding from his brother and cousin to start a new company.  Due to his past reputation of selling a high quality unadulterated product, his new company grew and became what we see today.

So back to the Celery Sauce.  It was one of his early condiments which he sold as a "brain and nerve" food because celery was believed to improve nerve function.  It continued to be sold up to the early 20th century when it fell out of favor.  At one time, it would be found on all tables in restaurants, much like ketchup is today.

Now for a couple of facts about Heinz.

1.  The company weathered the depression by introducing ready to eat soups and baby food.

2.  The Heinz 57 slogan came from Henry Heinz when he saw a sign advertising 21 styles of shoes.  The number grabbed him and he decided 57 varieties was  perfect  even though they were already producing over 60 varieties in 1892.

3.  Henry Heinz was known as "The pickle king".

4.  Henry was really one of the first people to establish brand recognition.

5. In 1905, Heinz opened its first international branch in England.

6.  Henry Heinz promoted cleanliness at a time when people often got sick from premade condiments and foods.  He received awards for this.

7.   When the FDA tightened regulations for producing canned foods, Henry was already ahead and pushed for even better rules.

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