Heinz Ketchup Recipe Changing!
The salt Nazis have claimed another victim.
For the first time in 40 years, Heinz ketchup is changing its famous recipe — by lowering the salt content in an effort to appeal to more health-conscious consumers, the company said yesterday.
Company officials have taste tested the new blend and believe it will be as popular as their old recipe, which has a 60 percent share of the ketchup market.
But Heinz fans fear that the company may be messing with perfection and that the switch could wind up a flavor debacle equal to the infamous rollout of New Coke.
When asked why the company was rolling the dice with a new recipe, spokeswoman Jessica Jackson said, “The catalyst . . . came from the changing needs of our consumers and our commitment to health and wellness.”
Jackson said the company had been planning the change for about two years. But it is coming just as Mayor Bloomberg and other politicians are leaning on big food companies to kick the salt. Heinz was one of 16 major food manufacturers that last month signed onto the National Salt Reduction Initiative, a plan led by Bloomberg to get companies to cut back on the salt in their products.
The new Heinz ketchup recipe will contain about 15 percent less sodium, dropping the amount per tablespoon from 190 to 160 milligrams. Heinz will also make changes to the secret spices. “As we reduced the sodium, we rebalanced the special secret spices,” Jackson said.
She said Heinz was not afraid that the new ketchup would go the way of New Coke, which was rejected by consumers when it was unveiled in 1985. “We conducted extensive testing with a broad cross-section of consumers across the country to ensure there wasn’t a distinguishable difference between the current and new recipes,” she said.
Of course, Coke had conducted extensive tasting tests, too, in which people overwhelmingly preferred the new formula. Until they replaced an old favorite.
Why not just release a “Low Sodium” version and continue selling the current recipe? That would give consumers a choice, which would seem to be better for all concerned.
It’s interesting, though, that Heinz has changed the recipe in my lifetime, if not my ketchup memory. (I vastly preferred “Heinz 57” sauce to ketchup until I was 10 or so.) Heinz pioneered commercially packaged tomato ketchup (which wasn’t redundant at the time) way back in 1876. So, clearly, they’ve maintained majority market share despite at least two changes in their recipe. In addition to whatever they did 40ish years ago, they removed the preservative sodium benzoate in “the early years of the 20th century” under pressure from the federal government.