Warren Buffett announced today that his Berkshire Hathaway, together with 3G Capital Management (which owns a majority stake in Burger King), will buy H.J. Heinz for around $23 billion. Buffett, in his investing, has always touted “icons.” There may be no more iconic brand in the world than Heinz ketchup.
Here are a few facts about H.J. Heinz I unearthed while doing a profile of the company a few years ago.
–The company, founded by Henry J. Heinz in 1869, first bottled horseradish. The first bottle of ketchup came in 1876. It had a cork top.
–Ketchup was originally used primarily to mask rotting food.
–In 1906, the Pure Food & Drug Act was passed, and with it, the modern food-processing industry was born.
–Heinz introduced the now-ubiquitous single-serve packet in 1960.
–The company sold its first squeezable plastic bottle in 1983.
–In 1995, a Harvard University study indicated that lycopene in tomatoes may inhibit prostate cancer. Heinz almost immediately put that information on its bottles.
–In 1998, Heinz introduced a red restaurant bottle, which always appeared full. It came with a safety cap, which stopped waiters from pouring in rivals’ ketchup.
–In 2000, Heinz went Technicolor, introducing green, purple, pink, teal, orange and blue ketchup.
–The upside-down plastic Easy Squeeze bottle was introduced in 2002, better to fit in the door of a refrigerator.
–Heinz once sold talcum powder in India, margarine in South Korea and fashion eyewear in Italy(!).
–Heinz once owned pet food brands like 9 Lives and Kibbles ‘n Bits, StarKist Tuna and infant foods. It sold them to Del Monte in 2002.
–The company’s CEO, William Johnson, is the 6th in Heinz’s 144-year history. He may make $100 million in the Buffett transaction.
–Johnson, 64, is the son of Bill (Tiger) Johnson, who played center for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers was once the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.
–William Johnson never played football, instead studying political science at UCLA and getting at M.B.A. at the University of Texas. He joined Heinz at age 33 as a marketing manager.
–He became CEO in 1998. He enjoys eating ketchup sandwiches and pours the condiment on mashed potatoes, broccoli and even his wife’s Thanksgiving turkey. He is an independent director of UPS.
–The company has the naming rights deal for Heinz Field, where the great Pittsburgh Steelers play. The deal began in 2001 and runs for 20 years and a total of $57 million (get it? “57?”).
–In Sweden, people put ketchup on their pasta. In Russia, they put in on their eggs.
–Around the world, Heinz ketchup is made differently for different countries. In general, outside of the U.S., Heinz ketchup is more tomatoey and less spicy. In the Philippines, Heinz ketchup is made from bananas. It is still red, though.
–Ketchup is one of the few foods that stimulates all five sensations within the mouth: salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami, the latter of which gives body to food and is the savory taste found in cured meat and MSG.