Americana: Pennsylvania

When I Say Ketchup, You Say Heinz
February 22, 2011 to March 26, 2011

Whether you put it on hot dogs, french fries or hamburgers, use it at diners, dives or dinner parties, chances are it comes from a Heinz packet or bottle. Every year Heinz sells 650 million bottles and 11 billion single-serving packets of its world famous Tomato Ketchup. Before McDonald's became the symbol of American globalization, it was Heinz that represented the United States omnipresence in foreign cultures. While the company has grown into a global empire, spanning 6 continents and more than 200 countries, it started as a small operation in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania. What began in 1869 with a recipe for horseradish from founder Henry John Heinz's mother has evolved into a corporation that boasts over 5,700 products. However, it is Tomato Ketchup that is definitively Heinz. It was not until 1876 that Heinz produced its first bottle of Ketchup, but the simple red sauce has since become a condiment that is synonymous with not only the company, but also America.

Similar to a can of Coca-Cola or a pack of Marlboro cigarettes, a bottle of Heinz Ketchup is a relatable American icon. From the tables of ordinary roadside diners to the dining room table of the White House, Heinz Tomato Ketchup is a mainstay at sit-down meals, no matter how casual or formal. While it recently lost its title of America's favorite condiment to salsa, for those who enjoy it, ketchup has the uncanny ability to compliment good food and make unpalatable food edible.

Ketchup's biggest critics argue that, like Coca-Cola, it contains high fructose corn syrup, which is a sweetener often linked to unhealthy food and beverages. However, in recent years Heinz has made an effort to promote the quality of its product, with the slogan 'Grown, Not Made.' The current ingredients for a bottle of Heinz Tomato Ketchup are: Tomato Concentrate From Red Ripe Tomatoes, Distilled Vinegar, Sugar, Salt, Onion Powder, Spice, Natural Flavoring. Like many of its producers, Heinz is attempting to change the image of ketchup to perhaps convert those who see it as nothing more than a sweet and viscous sauce into ketchup lovers.

The exhibition 'When I say Ketchup, You Say Heinz" has been organized to take on the appearance of the infamous bottle. With its instantly recognizable label reproduced on the front of the Americana vitrine and the signature "57" logo across the state of Alaska, the iconic imagery that makes a bottle of Heinz Ketchup unmistakable has been applied to the Mary Augustine Gallery, giving it a distinctively Heinz look. What's more, with 3,546 single-serve ketchup packets in the display, there is enough ketchup for every student at California College of the Arts to each have two.

Charles Moffett

Return to Americana Homepage