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I went to the cheap, limited variety, local grocery store today and stood in front of the condiments. There was a shelf-and-a-half of various brands of relish, four or five brands of barbecue sauce, and three or four of mustard. The ketchup shelf was enormous, to accomodate enormous bottles of ketchup, but there was only one brand represented: Heinz.

Heinz is the single dominant force in the ketchup market today. It has no serious competition, as I learned from reading the intriguing snapshot and history of the ketchup industry yesterday in the New Yorker's article, The Ketchup Conundrum. (Thanks to tsutanai for posting the link.) That it has no real competition is certainly not for lack of trying. French's mustard had a similar monopoly on mustard in the U.S. in the late '70s until Grey Poupon successfully advertised its product to customers who realized just how good the mustard was.

The article details a multitude of factors and intriguing studies, including the science of successful taste and that Grey Poupon is made in Connecticut from Canadian ingredients. I hadn't realized that it was only within my lifetime that the important of variety in an edible product line became the modus operandi. Prego made a killing when a visionary and food surveyer named Howard Moskowitz helped them to realize that there was no one perfect pasta sauce, and that the niche of "Extra Chunky" was entirely unclaimed in the pasta sauce market. And that there is only perfectly taste-balanced ketchup, and it has the market completely sewn up.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 1st, 2004 12:45 pm (UTC)
but there was only one brand represented: Heinz.

And people wonder why Teresa's worth 600 million.
Nov. 1st, 2004 12:48 pm (UTC)
An interestingly Canadian piece from an American/Brit such as yourself! ;-) Is it true that Canadians have an obsession with Ketchup unlike anyone else?

I can't remember the last time I bought Heinz variety ketchup, it's way too expensive. I always get the Our Compliments, President's Choice, no-name brand du jour from wherever I happen to be doing my shopping that week. I actually prefer the Our Compliments to the Heinz (maybe my palette is cheap too).

For a better mustard in Toronto try The Mustard Emporium (http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/shopping/cspec1.html) in the St. Lawrence Market (upper-south). There's a guy who makes and sells his own mustards; dozens and dozens to choose from with a veritable spectrum of hots and flavours to enjoy!

Here's a blurb:

Kozlik's Gourmet Mustards has moved to the South Market and taken on a new name, the better to convey to you their more than 80 gourmet mustards. Included are Anice, Balsamic, Coffee, Cinnamon, Deli, Extra Grainy, Hot or Mild Garlic, Honey & Spice, Regular or Hot Horseradish, Lemon, Lime & Honey, Mint, Orange, Raspberry, tarragon, Extra Hot with Salt, Sweet Extra Hot, and the Niagara series. More are being added each week. Anton also offers blended mustards to either make your own prepared mustards or for cooking only, plus both processed and dry mustard seeds.

Not cheap though...
Nov. 1st, 2004 03:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Ketchup
The Mustard Emporium does indeed have wonderful mustard! I had some of their mostarda on my sandwich at lunch today, in fact.

I think I have some sort of generic brand of ketchup in the fridge myself right now, but as long as it isn't offensive, it doesn't matter too much what kind it is since I only use it in cooking. (Meatloaf, for example.) I'm not sure why, but somewhere along the way, I developed a dislike for ketchup. I can't stand it on french fries, and will only have it on hamburgers and hot dogs if there's really no other condiments available.
Nov. 1st, 2004 12:51 pm (UTC)
This was fascinating!

Heinz ketchup really is the best. Too many restaurants use Heinz bottles but fill it with the cheap stuff, and the taste is always noticable.
Nov. 1st, 2004 03:19 pm (UTC)
I haven't done a taste-test comparison myself, but if I did, I'd be more interested in comparing the upmarket rival brands to Heinz. Offhand, I'm not sure I'd be able to tell Heinz apart from cheaper ketchups with my eyes closed, but that's in large part because I don't really like ketchup and haven't eaten much of it in a very long time.
Nov. 1st, 2004 03:53 pm (UTC)
The other brands always seem more plainly tomato-y to me. I like the small bit of tanginess from Heinz. :))
Nov. 1st, 2004 01:01 pm (UTC)
Oh yea, no surprise that Grey Poupon mustard is made from Canadian ingredients, Canada is the Mustard Capital of the World (http://collections.ic.gc.ca/humboldt/agriculture/mustard.htm)

(no joke!)
Nov. 1st, 2004 03:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Mustard
I had no idea! Of course, I also had no idea that the largest supply of tomatoes is grown in China these days. (Another tidbit from that ketchup article.)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )