11 Things You Might Not Know About Heinz

If you opened up your fridge and cupboards, what Heinz products would you find? Chances are, you have a bottle of Heinz ketchup or mayo, or even a jar of pickles, as the Heinz brand is seriously everywhere. It's been a household name for what feels like forever, and it's nearly impossible to walk into a grocery store without seeing the company's condiments or canned goods. 

But although it's a big player in the food industry, you might not know much about the company itself. How did this ubiquitous brand get started? And are there really only 57 varieties out there? 

For starters, the Heinz company has existed for far longer than any of us have. And beneath all the packaging, there are plenty of fun, little-known facts. So if you want to know what this brand is all about, keep reading. We'll share 11 things you might not know about Heinz, and next time you're prepping a picnic or hosting a barbecue, you can surprise your guests with some Heinz trivia knowledge.

1. Heinz was named after its founder

Have you ever wondered where the name Heinz comes from? Like many companies, Heinz was named after its founder. Henry J. Heinz was born in 1844 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was a budding entrepreneur from a young age. Growing up, he loved spending time in the garden and kitchen, and this passion eventually led him into the food industry. By 16, he ran a small-scale business delivering produce and other goods to local stores. And in 1869, he started what would later become the aptly named H. J. Heinz Company. 

However, the company took on a few names before settling on Heinz. It was initially registered as Anchor Pickle and Vinegar Works, then later as Heinz & Noble. And during the Panic of 1873, Heinz found himself in a different kind of pickle altogether. With little financial resources, he reached out to his family. His cousin Franklin and his brother John helped the company reestablish itself, and it was renamed F. & J. Heinz. But once Henry got back on his feet, he took over the company again, renaming it with his own initials as the H. J. Heinz Company in 1888.

It's safe to say the Heinz Company was near and dear to Henry's heart. His dedication to quality food eventually paid off, turning this small-scale business into an international success. And although Henry isn't alive today, his name and legend live on. After all, most everyone knows the brand name, and even as you read this, your pantry is probably stocked with some Heinz favorites.

2. Heinz started with horseradish

Henry Heinz may be the pickle and ketchup king, but the company has deeper roots in horseradish. This strong and spicy condiment hit shelves in 1869, making it the company's first official product.

Nowadays, people can make recipes with horseradish fairly quickly. They can buy a premade horseradish sauce or make their own with a food processor. But in the late 19th century, getting access to all the ingredients and machinery wasn't as easy. Home cooks craving that zesty horseradish had to put in the work, grating for what probably felt like days. But where some saw a problem, Heinz saw an opportunity and set out to create his own commercial horseradish.

Born to German immigrant parents, it's fitting that his first condiment was horseradish. The sauce was popular in the late 1800s and went well with many European dishes. And although Heinz was no stranger to cooking, he really turned up the heat with his horseradish. Inspired by his mother's recipe, he created a grated horseradish sauce and, later, an evaporated horseradish. Both sauces were wildly popular, flying off shelves and catapulting the company to success.

3. Heinz values transparency

Henry Heinz was a pioneer in many ways. He understood his audience — and the wariness around prepackaged food during the late 1800s. To gain trust, Heinz packaged his products in clear glass bottles, which wasn't the norm then.

During this era, canned goods were more popular. But unfortunately, the sealing and sterilizing of these tin cans was often not done correctly. This would lead to bacterial growth or faster food spoilage. These tins were also sealed with lead, posing significant health risks. So instead, the forward-thinking Heinz Company packaged its condiments in tall glass bottles. It challenged consumers' perceptions at the time but also gained their trust. With transparent glass, people could see what was happening inside, and Heinz had nothing to hide. He believed in his products' quality and wanted to show that to the world.

Despite this being over a century ago, people also knew that glass bottles were more eco-friendly and could be repurposed. Nowadays, the Heinz Company sells many products, including ketchup, in plastic bottles. However, many of these are still transparent. And if you prefer, you can still find those glass Heinz bottles that resemble the classic model.

4. There aren't 57 varieties

The Heinz brand is known for its "57 varieties" tagline. If you pick up a Heinz ketchup bottle, you'll see this catchphrase on the label or engraved into the bottle itself. But are there actually 57 varieties of products? Absolutely not — there are far more. The slogan has been around since 1896, and by that point, the Heinz Company sold well over 60 products. So what's the real meaning behind this mysterious number?

As the story goes, Henry J. Heinz was on a New York City train when he noticed a shoe advertisement for "21 styles of shoes." He found the phrase catchy and wanted to incorporate something similar into his own brand. Since Henry's lucky number was 5 and his wife's was 7, he combined them to create "57." 

Now, the brand's identity is linked to this number, which was really just invented on a superstitious whim. But just like Henry and the shoe ad, the tactic worked. When people think of Heinz, they attach it to the number 57, and vice versa. It might mean nothing but adds a sense of familiarity to the brand. Despite all the changes Heinz has been through, the number provides a constant — it's something people can trust.

5. Heinz and the NFL made a good team

Heinz and the number 57 go together– so much so that the company was even called to support Super Bowl 57. Historically speaking, the Super Bowl has always used Roman numerals to signify which game it is — but most fans don't know this system. When many of them see "LVII" (aka 57), they get confused. One Heinz commercial even conducted a street survey to see who could read this Roman numeral — with zero successful participants.

So when the 57th Super Bowl approached, Heinz and the National Football League saw an opportunity. They played upon the confusion using a clever cross-marketing campaign that connected the two brands. Marketing phrases included "Roman numerals are super confusing," "Let's call LVII what it is. 57." and "LVII MEANZ 57" (per the Little Black Book). 

It was a playful way to promote the companies and maybe even learn some Roman numerals. And overall, the advertisements proved successful. They got fans excited about the game and encouraged them to buy some Heinz dips for those Super Bowl party foods.

6. Heinz sells over 5,700 products worldwide

Almost anywhere you go in the world, you'll find Heinz. The brand's presence has spread far and wide. Whether in Asia, Europe, or Australia, you can spread Heinz mayo, ketchup, or mustard on those burger buns. Although the company markets itself with "57 varieties," it actually has more than 5,700 products in nearly 200 countries.

Many of these products are condiments. Aside from the fan-favorite ketchup, you can find salad dressings, barbecue sauce, relish, and tartar sauce, among others. In the UK, you'll even find British staples like salad cream or HP sauce. But Heinz sells far more than solely sauces. The company also makes meals, snacks, baby food, soups, and other canned goods. And, of course, the "Pickle King" sells jars of pickles in all shapes and sizes.

Heinz was a powerhouse on its own. But In 2015, the Kraft Heinz Company announced its merger, making these two companies even more powerful. Since joining forces, the Kraft Heinz Company reports that it's become the fifth-largest food and beverage company globally. So if you're strolling through international supermarkets, don't be surprised to see many Heinz products adorning the shelves.

7. Ed Sheeran loves Heinz Ketchup

How much do you love Heinz Ketchup? Enough to get it tattooed on your body? Because that's how much Ed Sheeran loves it. The famous celebrity has a food tattoo of Heinz ketchup on his left bicep, which he got to commemorate his 2012 tour, along with his love for the condiment (via The Sun). But his ketchup obsession doesn't stop there.

Sheeran came up with a creative idea for a ketchup advertisement, and after DMing the company, the Heinz commercial was given the go-ahead. It features Ed dining in an uber-fancy establishment. When his entree arrives, he pulls out his own Heinz ketchup bottle despite disapproving stares all around. Because no matter how good the meal is, ketchup can always enhance it, apparently.

According to Billboard, Sheeran further professed his devotion by tweeting, "No one is too good for ketchup. Ketchup is too good for you." But apparently, Heinz Ketchup wasn't too good for him. The company returned the love by creating a ketchup bottle of Sheeran's tattoos. In a Reuters interview, Kraft Heinz director of corporate affairs Nigel Dickie explained, "What's special about them is that they have his tattoos on the label...so it's his sleeve on our sleeve." 

8. Heinz Ketchup is designed to be a slow-pour sauce

Many of us grow restless trying to pour Heinz Ketchup, but it's all part of the design. The condiment is meant to pour at a speed of 0.028 mph, which is roughly the average speed of a garden snail. Quality assurance tests these bottles to ensure they all have the same viscosity. That way, you can rely on each bottle being just as delicious as the next. After all, Heinz prides itself on its reliability.

So although you can't wait to eat that ketchup-laden meal, you'll just have to trust the process — or even embrace it. In a 1987 Heinz ketchup commercial, a then-unknown Matt LeBlanc did just that. The advertisement shows LeBlanc positioning an open ketchup bottle on the edge of a Manhattan rooftop. He races to the ground below, ordering a hot dog just in time to catch the ketchup falling from above.

9. There's a trick to getting the ketchup out

We've all been there. Your fries are hot but lacking sauce. You open a Heinz ketchup bottle and flip it over, only to discover it's moving far too slowly for your taste. That slow pour has you feeling impatient, so you do your best to speed things up. You shake, you hit the bottom of the bottle, but to no avail. If this sounds like you, you're not alone.

Many struggle to get Heinz ketchup out of those tall glass bottles and have devised ways to speed things up. One popular method is aptly referred to as the "57 trick." It involves tilting the bottle at just the right angle, roughly 45 degrees. Then, firmly tap the area where "57" is engraved into the glass (just above where the bottle begins to narrow). Using this strategy, the ketchup should pour perfectly.

Some wonder if this design was intentional or if the 57's placement was purely coincidental. Either way, it's worth a try. So next time you struggle to get that ketchup out, remember you've got a new trick up your sleeve.

10. You can visit the Heinz History Center

Want to learn more about the Heinz Company? Head to the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — the city where it all began.

This museum documents the evolution of the Heinz Company from its modest beginnings to international fame. It also houses some novelty memorabilia, like an 11-foot ketchup display made entirely of smaller Heinz bottles. And if you're curious how the Heinz bottle has transformed over the years, you'll see over 100 from various decades.

With all the vintage Heinz advertisements, it really feels like stepping into the past. In fact, the museum does such an excellent job of bringing history to life — including exhibits involving other aspects of Western Pennsylvania culture — that it was voted one of the 10 best history museums in the nation by USA Today. Fans across the internet have echoed this sentiment, with one Reddit user commenting, "The Heinz History Center really is fantastic. I haven't been there in years, but every time I go there, there's always more to see."

11. The Heinz family has a taste for politics

The Heinz family legacy goes far beyond food. It also has connections to several politicians, primarily former Republican senator Henry John Heinz III.

The late senator was the great-grandson of Henry Heinz, founder of the Heinz Company. He served as one of the Republican senators of Pennsylvania from 1977 until his death in 1991. His wife, Teresa Heinz, took over the family business after his death and is also deeply involved in philanthropic endeavors as the chair of the Heinz Family Foundation and The Heinz Endowments.

In 1996, Teresa Heinz married yet another politician, John Kerry. Previously, Kerry was a long-term Democratic senator from Massachusetts. Now, he is the first United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. However, he also ran in the notorious 2004 presidential election, losing by a controversially small margin to George W. Bush. The Heinz family has come a long way in both food production and politics. But if Kerry had succeeded in the presidential race, Heinz would've made it all the way to the White House.