30 November 2007

Behind The Heinz

The “57 varieties” thing is sorta like “who was buried in Grant's Tomb?” trivia. It's something dumb people can't help but ponder. And knowing the answer to a question like “what does the 57 varieties mean exactly?” somewhat solidifies your ranking as a high priest of infinite and useless knowledge.

Bewildered in Boston writes:

“Dear Fucko, I've always wondered why Heinz ketchup bottles all say "57 varieties," even though I have never seen but one type, whether it be on grocery shelves or in restaurants. What gives? Where's all the other 56 kinds?”
Well, Bewildered, “57 varieties” doesn't mean 57 varieties of ketchup, it means 57 varieties of food products in general. In fact there are only 3 varieties of Heinz ketchup: regular, hot, and low-sodium. And there are far more than 57 varieties of Heinz pickles, Heinz sauces, Heinz soups, and Heinz lord-knows-what-else.

In fact, if you count everything Heinz and all its divisions and subsidiaries make, there are something like 1,300 varieties, including 108 varieties of baby food, 60 kinds of pickles, and so on.

The number 57 has mystical significance to the Heinz company, but it has never had much to do with reality.

The slogan was invented by the company's founder, Henry J. Heinz, in 1892 while he was riding on the el in New York one day. Whilst reading the adverts in the car, his eye alighted on the slogan “21 styles of shoes.”

To pedestrian minds such as Bewildered in Boston, this probably does not sound like one of your landmark advertising mottoes, but that's why we're not millionaire ketchup barons.

Heinz, on the other hand, could recognise genius when he saw it. Cogitating briefly, he soon conceived the immortal words “57 varieties”, whereupon he got off the train and set about plastering the nation with the now-famous pickle-plus-number logo.

The one problem with this scheme was that at the time the company was manufacturing more than 60 varieties. However, Heinz stuck with 57, for what I've been told was “occult reasons”.

Heinz, as may already be evident, was something of a character. He started off bottling horseradish in a little town near Pittsburgh in 1869 (ketchup did not arrive on the scene until 1876).

He made a major selling point of the fact that he put his product in clear glass bottles, thus demonstrating that he did not adulterate his sauce with turnips or other false vegetables, as his competitors did.

Once Heinz hit on the notion of “57 varieties”, he constructed a number of hideous advertising signs at various strategic locales around the country. One, which was 6 storeys high, was located at 23rd and 5th and dazzled tourists with a 40-foot-long electrified pickle.

Heinz also built an exhibition hall in Atlantic City on a pier that extended 900 feet out into the ocean; another monstrous pickle, this one 70 feet tall, perched heroically on the end.

After a few more demonstrations of this style of architecture, the citizenry became alarmed lest Heinz encumber every landmark in the Republic with giant pickles. When a rumour (unfounded, it appears) got out that he had purchased Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tennesee, in order to scrape off the side and sculp a pickle of unprecedented proportions in the native granite, or whatever it is they have out there, there was a general uproar, with one partisan threatening to pickle Heinz 57 ways if he tried it.

The Heinz people are still quite attached to the number 57. The phone number at corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh is 237-5757, and the address is P.O. Box 57. The company does currently sell 57-thousand varieties in 200 countries and territories. Oh, and one of their salesman was a player for the Pittsburgh Steelers at one time, and you'll never guess what his number was. It is enough to make you want to swear off ketchup forever...
Which I nearly did one time.

We had some boyscout thing years ago at some convention center once and for whatever reason we spent the day making fake wounds on people. It was bizarre. It must've been some first-aid awareness bullshit or something for charity.

So we had some cheap special FX make up and whatever, but for blood we were using ketchup. People would step up and we'd create some hacky wound on their face and they'd walk off. It was really fucking strange.

But I swear by the end of the day I had sworn off ketchup for good. I couldn't smell ketchup without gagging for a good 6 months after that event. It was fucking gross. The smell of the cheap FX make-up and the powder and the whatever else we were using combined with the smell of the ketchup. I could seriously vom right now just thinking about it.

I do love ketchup though. Especially on scrambled eggs and home fries. And I first tried those ketchup potato chips in Montreal and they are fucking deelish.

Do you remember when Heinz was making green, blue and purple ketchup? What the fuck was that about?! Is it becoming hard to get kids to eat ketchup these days? What has happened to our children?
I mean, I'm assuming we went ahead with the wacky coloured ketchup varietals to attract kids, right? Has ketchup somehow become the new brussel sprouts?!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ok? Who is named FUCKO?