Heinz Didn't Just Have 57 Products When it was Named
By 1892, H.J. Heinz Company had grown from a small company selling horseradish in clear
glass jars, to having over 60 products. Despite having more than 57 products, at the behest
of the founder of H.J. Heinz Company, the business instituted their now famous “57
Varieties of Heinz” slogan. Henry Heinz had come up with the slogan while
riding on a train in New York City in 1892. While on the train, he spotted a shoe store
advertisement that was promoting their “21 styles of shoes”. He thought his company
should have a similar slogan, promoting the fact that they produced many different products.
Rather than go with the exact number of products they made at the time (which would continue
to grow to nearly 6,000 today), he instead chose “57”. According to H.J. Heinz Company,
he chose this number simply because he thought it was a lucky number and liked the sound
of “57 Varieties of Heinz”. It was also reasonably close to the number of products
that they actually produced, so they went with it.
Henry Heinz got his start selling food products all the way back at the tender age of eight
years old. At the time, he helped his mother in her garden and would take the vegetables
around his neighborhood, selling them door to door. One year later, using a recipe his
mother had taught him, he started making and selling his own horseradish sauce, which later
would be the same sauce he would found his first major company selling.
His parents soon gave him around 3/4 of an acre to support his entrepreneurial endeavors
and while just ten years old, he was now selling large quantities of vegetables and horseradish
sauce around his neighborhood. Two years later, he expanded his operation to nearly four acres
and was even selling to local grocery stores. He continued growing in this way and, at his
peak before going to college, grossed around $2400 per year, which would be around $55,000
today. Now all grown up, rather than continue expanding at this point, he instead chose
to go to college and earned a degree in business. Heinz’ first business that he founded after
college actually went bankrupt after just six years in operation. The company was called
“Heinz Noble & Company”, co-founded by Heinz and L. Clarence Noble. They started
out selling more or less the same horseradish that he sold as a child. Unfortunately for
him, the “Great Depression” hit starting in 1873 with the “Panic of 1873″ and continuing
until 1879. Of course, this “Great Depression” eventually
got its named usurped a little under 60 years later and instead is now commonly known as
the “Long Depression”. The Long Depression ultimately affected much of Europe and the
United States. While there were many events that led up to the eventual trigger, that
trigger in the U.S. ended up being the failure of the Jay Cooke & Company bank, which had
overextended itself in putting way to much capital into the railroad bubble of the day.
After the Jay Cooke bank fell, other banks soon followed, as did over 89 of the nation’s
364 rail road companies. This had the net effect of nearly 14% of the U.S.’s workforce
being out of work (compared to about 5.5% today and as high as around 20%-23% during
the Great Depression). This all also saw real estate values plummet, further intensifying
the problem. The New York stock market even had to be closed for over a week during this
crisis (more on the Long Depression in a bit). Amidst all this, Heinz Noble & Company soon
found themselves overextended as the Long Depression continued on. They ultimately went
bankrupt in 1875. After the business went belly-up, Heinz didn’t
take long to rebound, founding the H.J. Heinz Company just a year later in the midst of
the Long Depression. His new company pretty much did the same exact thing his old bankrupted
company did. This one worked out a bit better than the first. Fast-forward about 137 years
and H. J. Heinz Company grosses around $10 billion per year with around 6000 products
and close to 33,000 employees. Bonus Facts:
• Heinz was known for his eccentric advertising campaigns, including: creating a six story
high electrically lit (which was a big deal at the time) pickle in New York City at 23rd
and 5th Avenue. He later built a 70 foot tall pickle at the end of a pier in Atlantic City.
He even bought part of Lookout Mountain in Tennessee with the idea of having an enormous
pickle carved into the mountain. In this case, though, his attempt was thwarted due to public
outrage at him potentially desecrating a spot which was, among other things, the sight of
a famous Civil War battle not too many years before.
• The actual Heinz 57 sauce was originally named Beefsteak sauce and was first sold in
1911. Two years after its creation, they renamed it Heinz 57 Beefsteak sauce. Fast-forward
27 years and they decide to rename it again, this time to Heinz 57 sauce as it is today.
However, in between then and now, they once again decided to rename it in 1969 to Heinz
57 steak sauce. In 1987, they decided to drop the “steak” and it has remained Heinz
57 Sauce since then. • Heinz’ ketchup was introduce the same
year his new company was established, 1876. At the time, fresh, ripe tomatoes were thought
by many to be bad for your health and even poisonous (much like what happened when potatoes
were first introduced in Europe). Ketchup, however, did not suffer as much from this
stigma due to being processed with spices and vinegar. However, because ripe tomatoes
were still considered bad for you, often ketchups of the day were extremely watery from lack
of pectin, due to the makers using unripe tomatoes. Just 30 years after its launch,
Heinz was selling over 12 million bottles of ketchup per year. Today, Heinz sells over
650 million bottles of ketchup annually, along with 11 billion small packets of their ketchup.
These ketchup sales earn them a gross of $1.5 billion per year.
• Heinz recommends hitting the “57” on the neck of Heinz 57 ketchup to get it
to poor faster. They claim they actually put the 57 in that specific spot so you’ll know
exactly where to hit. In addition to that, the exact speed the ketchup should flow out
of the bottle is 0.028 mph (.045 km/h), according to Heinz. Heinz actually regulates this and
if they find a batch of their ketchup flows such that the viscosity is greater than the
speed, the batch is thrown out. The reason ketchup flows so unevenly (one minute not
at all, the next minute gobs coming out), is that it is a pseudoplastic aka “shear
thinning substance”. Tapping the “57” on the neck with two fingers will often do
a better job than shaking because the ketchup’s resistance to flow (viscosity) decreases as
the shear rate increases. So by tapping it at the blockage point, you increase the shear
rate, thereby, decreasing the viscosity, hence, it flows. Shaking can have the same effect,
but according to Heinz won’t typically work as well as the tapping the logo method. Other
substances which exhibit this same shear thinning effect include: lava; blood; nail polish;
and whipped cream. Today’s paints also are designed to take advantage of this, so that
they can be easily rolled on, but once on the wall with the shearing force removed,
they resist dripping. • It has been proposed that pizza be considered
a vegetable in the U.S. due to its tomato sauce content (obviously this was heavily
lobbied by certain food companies that would benefit from their product being considered
a vegetable). In 1982, a similar type proposal also almost saw making ketchup count as a
vegetable. Ronald Reagan proposed to cut $1 billion from school lunch programs, while
still maintaining the necessary nutritional elements of the school meals. In true political
fashion, rather than actually solving the nutritional problem, it was suggested that
they simply reclassify ketchup and relish as vegetables. This way, on paper, it would
look like they were serving a vegetable and so they could cut out serving a real vegetable,
without actually having to add any nutritional item that the schools didn’t already serve.
Needless to say, this didn’t go over too well and the idea was eventually thrown out.
The school lunches cut proposal also didn’t fare well in the minds of the public because,
on the same day cuts were proposed by Reagan, he had the White House curators buy over $200,000
(about $450,000 today) worth of new china embossed with gold.
• Ketchup is actually graded into three categories: Fancy, Extra Standard, and Standard.
In order to receive the classification of “Fancy” ketchup, it must have a specific
gravity of at least 1.15 and a total amount of solids equaling at or above 33%. What this
means in layman’s terms is the thicker the ketchup (more tomato solids), the higher the
quality rating is. • Despite his first company going bankrupt
and Heinz not being obligated to pay many of the debts the company held, he voluntarily
chose to do so anyways, as he felt morally obligated, though this took some time.
• The Long Depression started innocently enough when Germany decided to get rid of
silver as the backing material for their money in 1871. This decreased the value of silver
and particularly hurt certain U.S. businesses who mined a significant amount of the world’s
silver. The U.S. then decided to follow suit and stop backing its money with gold and silver
and decided to just go with gold (as a part of the Coinage Act of 1873). This even more
drastically killed the price of silver and subsequently raised interest rates significantly.
Businesses and farmers, who typically kept a fair amount of debt at times, were caught
off guard by this sudden shift and rise of interest rates. Investors then got in on the
panic and stopped wanting to invest in endeavors that would tie up funds for long periods of
time, preferring to keep a lot of money on hand. In modern times, the housing bubble
contributed to our “little depression”; back then it was a giant railroading bubble
that burst around this same time as the silver fiasco. This had a drastic effect on the nation
because railroad companies of the day were (combined) the second largest employer in
the U.S. after agriculture. Finally, one of the larger banks in the country, Jay Cooke
& Company, went under in 1873 largely due to being too heavily invested in railroads
and it was all downhill from there with bank after bank suffering the same fate as Jay
Cooke & Company. This first “Great Depression” also hit most of Europe just as hard as the