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.