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About the Foundation


Best known as a tomato sauce from the United States, ketchup is actually derived from the Asian word for a group of salty and spicy liquid condiments made from fish and fermented soya beans. English and Dutch traders loved these seasonings and tried to replicate them in Europe in the 18th century. However, they used native ingredients and the results were very different from the Asian condiment.
AL07-01 Composition - Légumes - Heinz Ketchup
© Shutterstock / urbanbuzz

Asian roots?

Although the legendary tomato sauce known as ketchup comes from the United States, the word ketchup comes from Asia. It originally referred to a group of salty, spicy liquid condiments. Kêtsiap means a fish-based fermented sauce in Chinese (Amoy dialect), a word derived from the Malay kechap, now kecap, which refers to a soya sauce resulting from fermentation. These original ketchups are reminiscent of the Ancient Roman garum, a sauce made from salted, fermented and dried fish entrails.

Europeans loved these Asian sauces and tried to produce similar ones in the 18th century. However, they used native ingredients and the results were very different from the Asian condiment. The first version produced in England was called 'British Ketchop' and was a far cry from the Asian condiment. The sauce contained anchovies, shallots, white wine vinegar and a blend of spices (pepper, horseradish, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and lemon peel). There were different types of ketchup too, such as seafood, mushroom and even nut ketchup.

Inspired by the English, the Americans in turn developed their own different types of ketchup, using the tomato, a native fruit. As tomatoes were cheap and easy to grow, industrial production was encouraged to stimulate the economy and consumption after the Civil War. Ketchup became the condiment of the nation and started to be imported into Europe in the late 19th century. The Heinz Company was founded in the United States in 1869 and became the largest producer of tomato ketchup in the world. There are many branches worldwide, with the one in Elst in the Netherlands one of the largest factories in Europe. To achieve the desired quality of tomato, Heinz has been creating its own tomato seeds since 1930 and distributes them to its farming partners.

From soil to bottles

Grown from seed in greenhouses, tomato plants are then transplanted outdoors, where their fruit becomes fully ripe and ready for harvest between July and mid-September. They are sorted according to size and ripeness. They are sorted once again in the factory, as only tomatoes which are the right colour and have the proper acidity and water values are used. The tomatoes are then thinly sliced and pre-cooked. A machine separates the tomato seeds, skins and pulp, retaining only their pulp. The pulp is then poured into a vat together with a variety of ingredients (sugar, salt, vinegar and spices) and cooked for 30 to 45 minutes. Once cooked, the mixture is passed through a machine to give it a smooth texture and then bottled.

From tomatoes to mushrooms

The legendary Heinz ketchup is a sweet and sour sauce made from tomatoes, vinegar, salt and sugar. It is available at most fast-food outlets as an accompaniment for chips, hamburgers and hotdogs. Ketchup manufacturers like Heinz have developed several versions of spicy ketchups (for example, with chilli, cumin, ginger and cloves, or with curry, pepper and lemon, or even with garlic, thyme and honey). There is also a mushroom ketchup, which is tomato free.

Did you know?

A 300 ml glass bottle of Heinz ketchup contains around 10 tomatoes.