Thursday 20 May 2010

Why do they have to ruin everything good?

Healthists. Lousy rotten healthists.

First they came for the smokers. Then they came for the drinkers. They're coming for the fatty foods.

And now they're ruining ketchup.
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.


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.
Heinz's recipe for ketchup was one of the world's perfect things: it couldn't be improved upon. Wrote Gladwell a few years ago:
Today there are thirty-six varieties of RagĂș spaghetti sauce, under six rubrics—Old World Style, Chunky Garden Style, Robusto, Light, Cheese Creations, and Rich & Meaty—which means that there is very nearly an optimal spaghetti sauce for every man, woman, and child in America. Measured against the monotony that confronted Howard Moskowitz twenty years ago, this is progress. Happiness, in one sense, is a function of how closely our world conforms to the infinite variety of human preference. But that makes it easy to forget that sometimes happiness can be found in having what we've always had and everyone else is having. "Back in the seventies, someone else—I think it was RagĂș—tried to do an 'Italian'-style ketchup," Moskowitz said. "They failed miserably." It was a conundrum: what was true about a yellow condiment that went on hot dogs was not true about a tomato condiment that went on hamburgers, and what was true about tomato sauce when you added visible solids and put it in a jar was somehow not true about tomato sauce when you added vinegar and sugar and put it in a bottle. Moskowitz shrugged. "I guess ketchup is ketchup."
You simply couldn't improve on Heinz ketchup. And now it's being ruined for the healthists.

And, as Puddlecote points out, Heinz already had a low salt low sugar version out on the market. The health conscious consumers already had that option available. Read his whole post, of course.

Somebody please tell me that Watties here in New Zealand won't be implementing the new formula. Otherwise, I'll have to stock up. Any backlash in NZ would be very limited relative to what might be expected in the States as most folks here prefer a horrible tomato sauce (sickly sweet with minimal vinegar or salt) to proper ketchup.

Come the revolution, Doug Sellman, Michael Bloomberg and all the rest will be locked in a beige room and fed nothing but strained peas to a soundtrack of Enya. Come the revolution.


  1. From memory Watties already have a "lite" version of their tomato sauce. Not sure what exactly makes it "lite" aside from terrible spelling, but assume it is lower in sugar, and possibly reduced salt. Mind you, apparently so did Heinz, and that doesn't seem to have protected them.
    Contrary to what you might think after yesterday I am generally anti-authoritarian, and while I am encouraged by the addition of healthier options for consumers, removal of choice for consumers is generally a bad thing.

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  3. Doctor Crampton! Are you suggesting that Heinz freely made decision, without coercion or interference, to alter their ketchup receipe (which, I would suggest is their 'property' and which they 'own') should be challenged?

    I point finger at you and cry, "Paternalism!"

    Pot.... Kettle.... Black....

    And why aren't you eating Watties? Don't you want to assimulate with New Zealanders? ;)

    Paternalistic and Xenophobic... tsk tsk.. :)

  4. @James: The article suggests very strongly that Heinz was leaned on by Bloomberg. If they'd made the decision in the absence of this kind of thing, I'd totally be with you. But do you think they'd really have done this without the looming threat of New York and other salt regulations?

    Isn't Watties just the local bottler for Heinz? I refuse to eat "tomato sauce" as well as various yeast-based spreads though.

  5. Totally with you on Heinz Ketchup but you're really missing out when it comes to Marmite. These amazing yeast work hard to make our beer and then sacrifice themselves to make delicious toast spread. Cut it 1:2 with margarine and you will be converted. Stay away from Vegemite at all costs!

  6. I think there are different recipes for different consumer markets, (as we all know) Americans have some peculiar tastes.

    Some of it must have to do with the quality of the inputs. Compare Heinz Baked Beans to Watties Baked Beans for example, the sauce in the Watties one is much redder. This could be a difference in what drum of colouring agent #E129521 was used. But surely it still has to do with the source/quality of the original ingredients ... i.e. the tomatoes used in the sauce.

    Thus I suspect our ketchup will stay much as it is now. I can't think of too many other recent examples, but if I see our cheese turning fake-tan orange and the consistency of plastic and our bread changing from wholegrain to wholesugar then we'll have to consider the Americans have indeed taken over the 'food' chain.

  7. @V: Cheese here is high quality, I expect, because our dairy is free-market. Dairy prices aren't artificially inflated, so producers can make high quality cheese and ice cream at reasonable cost.