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The Ketchup War: How Heinz & French’s turned the ‘Tomato Capital of Canada’ into a battleground

November 18, 2023

The Ketchup War: How Heinz & French’s turned the ‘Tomato Capital of Canada’ into a battleground

November 18, 2023

The Ketchup War: How Heinz & French's turned the ‘Tomato Capital of Canada' into a battleground

It's no secret that Canadians love ketchup: according to Kraft Canada, 87 per cent of us have a bottle in the fridge, and we consume more ketchup per capita than our neighbours. We're also one of the only countries in the that produces ketchup chips. But in 2016, the country became divided over the tasty tomato-based condiment. #CBCShortDocs #TheKetchupWar
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The Ketchup War is the story of French's versus Heinz and how the people of Leamington, Ont., (a.k.a. the Tomato Capital of Canada) got caught up in what might be the country's most patriotic food fight.

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For more than 100 years, Leamington was home to the second-largest Heinz factory in the world. The plant employed around 1,000 workers, plus hundreds of others, indirectly, through the and greenhouses that grew for Heinz.

The town of Leamington might as well have been built by the ketchup industry.

But in 2013, Heinz announced the factory would be closing its doors and moving its operations to the U.S. It was a gut punch for the community and led the town into economic turmoil. With more than 700 full-time workers laid off and farmers left with tomatoes dying on the vine, locals wondered who could come to their rescue.

Enter French's. A long-time player in the condiment game, it's one of the best-known of prepared mustard in the world.

The company saw Heinz's departure as an opportunity to move into the ketchup market while aligning itself with the patriotic ideal of supporting the Canadian farmer. Sure, it's also a U.S. company, but by employing Leamington residents and later branding its bottles to highlight the fact that its ketchup was produced with 100 per cent Canadian tomatoes, it became the hero Leamington needed.

When an Orillia, Ont., construction named Brian Fernandez saw a bottle of French's ketchup at the grocery store, he posted on Facebook about his support for the made-in-Canada ketchup and went on with his day.

Then he got a call from a radio station in Vancouver: “How do you feel about your post going viral?”

Fernandez's post had blown up. It had tens of thousands of shares and had made headlines across Canada.

At the same time, Loblaws announced it was going to stop carrying French's ketchup due to low sales. Proud Canadians took to social media to demand that the grocery store keep the condiment on its shelves, and within 24 hours, Loblaws reversed its decision.

Thus, the ketchup war began.

Heinz, which had dominated the Canadian ketchup market for over 100 years, had never really had to compete with anybody else until then. For the first time, it had a true adversary. French's was into its profits north or the border, and Heinz had to figure out a way back into the hearts of Canadians.

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39 Comments

  1. Music. Music and Love. That is ALL I DO, people.

  2. Thank you, for this, right now
    I do not eat ketchup; that might be part of the appeal

  3. Dark2Reaper says:

    Been a lifelong Heinz ketchup buyer but now I am Team French's

  4. Well done French's, for saving the Leamington ketchup plant. After Heinz suddenly and callously closed it, devastating the community which had loyally served them for many years, I switched to French's ketchup and also avoid other Heinz products where I can. Judging by the number of comments people have taken the time to leave, Heinz have lost their crown in Canada with many previously loyal customers like myself.

  5. Tong Zou says:

    Have always bought Frenchs ketchup not just because they support Canada but because their ketchup just tastes better than Heinz. It tastes more like real tomatoes with less sugar.

  6. Tired of greedy corporations. I would never use anything but their ketchup but not now. Also I have issues I must avoid bad ingredients. But their ways soured me. Also the mass over processed,& price gouging have turned me off. No place is perfect but I settle for store brand now. I'm not eating huge amount of it now like I used too anyway. Goodbye chumps!

  7. JustForFun says:

    me i bought president choice ketchup taste the same

  8. Jafo says:

    KEVIN O'LEARY🦈$AY$ MAKE IT IN CHINA🥠🍾🥂🚤💥⚰⚰👀

  9. It's so heartwarming to see all you beautiful Canadian rubes pledge your loyalty to the other multi-billion dollar American conglomerate. 😢

  10. Jim Nealon says:

    Heinz rested on laurels. Cheaper version of original recipe. Love French’s quality.

  11. Many other reasons not to buy Heniz anything..

  12. And so from here on out I will buy French's ketchup. McDonald's even dropped Heinz. Heinz makes me think of the world Wars and French's victories. Sounds kosher to me.

  13. PoppinC says:

    You can't even criticize Warren Buffet and his ilk because then they dismiss you as an antisemite.

  14. glen holman says:

    Buy store brand much cheaper same product

  15. Collin Haas says:

    As someone whos family grew up in leamington you didnt know someone who hadn't worked at heinz at one point or anothe r

  16. John North says:

    Corporations don't care about people….

  17. Tomato sauce in canada is disgusting

  18. Kewl Story ! Nice to see what a little corporate competition can do. The Persuit of Happiness Baby !

  19. Capellix says:

    Frenchs >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Heinz

  20. Steve Cooper says:

    Heinz guy all my life, I remember parents buying Hunts at one time to save money, but never liked the taste. Went back to Heinz. Then years later tried Frenchs to support fellow Canadians. Wasn’t fond of the taste. Instead of going back to Heinz I seldom use ketchup at all now. I do use Frenchs mustard however. Always have.

  21. onezerotwo says:

    Heinz in the trash as soon as I found out, they can make their money from someone else.

  22. killervacuum says:

    honestly surprised there is significant tomato content in modern mass produced ketchup

  23. Cadwang _ says:

    Nevermind the lost jobs. Here we are battling over heinz and frenchs. As if noone else makes ketchup. Anyone ever measured out 5 grams of sugar per serving. This stuff is toxic

  24. SO HEINZ OWNS THE VERY SAME SLOP THAT THEY WANT US TO DUMP ATOP OF THE FOOD KERRY HOPES WE WON'T HAVE… THANKS JOHN KERRY.

  25. Hunt's Ketchup doesn't tell me how to live, I'm buying any other than Heinz. KERRY IS HEINZ.

  26. William Owen says:

    Neoliberals, who worship business, have no problem with atrocities like this. Trudeau is a neoliberal.
    Cons also worship business and have no problems with atrocities like this.
    See the the problem?

  27. lcweinstock says:

    Buying Frenchs now!!!

  28. As an American I like them both.

  29. Kodi Steffes says:

    French’s ketchup is awful

  30. sue french says:

    I recognize that voice! BBB

  31. red herring says:

    yes we switched right away , keep it Canadian as much as we can when shopping , ( Why Buy 4 -N )

  32. Frank Roy says:

    Only use French's ketchup, New heinzs is terrible.

  33. MTL 65 says:

    Kraft is the true villan behind all this.

  34. Sounds like Buffet didn't realize Leamington ketchup was made for Canada, he screwed the pooch!
    Heinz use to have a patent on the word ketchup until they lost their place in line to renew it. Everyone else made catsup (with high fructose corn syrup) usually. This was before public knew about GMO, Organic, High Fructose Corn Syrup… Imagine if they stopped allowing organic products to be packaged in plastic bottles etc? ' went back to glass jars/ bottles that could be recycled or filled up at store again? Landfills would go out of business, but our fish might like it.

  35. p416 says:

    PC ketchup is better then both of these lol

  36. Jay Hopkins says:

    Heinz ketchup, was what I ate my whole life until they😊 started making it in the states and I found it doesn't taste the same. Maybe that's just me I don't know? It doesn't taste the same as the old machines that used to make their product in Leamington.

  37. Zigest says:

    The USA should pull all companies out of Canada, They are so ungrateful

  38. Zigest says:

    Canada to dumb too dumb to have their own brands, they don't even have car companies

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