I have regularly brought back ketchup from Canada for several years, so I am surprisingly an expert on Canadian ketchup.
Heinz Canada was my choice because the regular version had sugar and not glucose-fructose and vinegar (at the time) was the 2nd ingredient instead of the aforementioned sugar.
At that point, Heinz Canada was made in nearby Leamington, Ontario (was buying my ketchup in Windsor). The tomato/ketchup pride extended to Leamington and southwestern Ontario but wasn't well-known throughout Canada.
Heinz pulled out of Leamington in June 2014. French's came in to Leamington in January 2016.
Brian Fernandez stepped up on Twitter in February proclaiming Canadian pride over French's using Leamington tomatoes from Canadian farmers. Loblaw's had to reinstate French's ketchup in its stores after social media flooded the Internet with negative reaction.
The company had cited low sales for removing French's ketchup from its shelves. Then again, a leaked memo points out that French's was cutting into sales of President's Choice ketchup, owned by Loblaw's.
French's says the Ohio plant makes ketchup from Canadian tomatoes in a separate run from its U.S. counterpart. That ketchup is sold in stores. Its Toronto plant makes ketchup from Leamington tomatoes for use in restaurants.
So we have French's ketchup made from Leamington tomatoes and the ketchup is made in Canada and the United States. President's Choice ketchup is made in Canada from tomatoes from Canada and the United States. Where is a patriotic Canadian supposed to dip French fries?
A nice malt vinegar made in Canada would solve some of this problem.
I've never tried French's ketchup in either Canada or the United States. We used to get President's Choice ketchup in the United States, but I've never knowingly tried it.
The tiebreaker in the United States is whether the ketchup has high-fructose corn syrup. Mainstream versions of ketchup in the United States have high-fructose corn syrup. Heinz, French's, and President's Choice have liquid sugar as the sweetener in their Canadian ketchups.
All 3 ketchups have liquid sugar as their second ingredient. As we mentioned earlier, Heinz used to have vinegar as its second ingredient.
If the choice is tomatoes over where the ketchup is bottled, French's is the winner. If where the ketchup is bottled, PC Ketchup is your winner. If the choice comes down to taste, is Heinz the winner?
The frustration over Heinz has been there since the company announced the closing of the Leamington plant in 2013. That frustration had nowhere to go until French's launched in its place. The social media outburst may be only the beginning.
While Heinz did take its ketchup away from Leamington, thanks to Canada’s Agricultural Products Act, Heinz still produces tomato juice in Leamington. Heinz sold the plant to Highbury Canco, which produces the tomato juice for Heinz and other tomato products, including the tomato paste for French's ketchup, in Leamington.
The Agricultural Products Act requires that all tomato juice sold in Canada has to come from "sound, whole, ripe" tomatoes. The United States, to no one's surprise, has lesser standards, only requiring that tomato juice be made from tomato paste.
In restaurants throughout Canada, you see Heinz bottles. To be fair, Heinz had a reputation for producing a Canadian product for more than 100 years. Change is as slow as pouring a Heinz ketchup bottle in the 1970s (ask your parents or grandparents).
As an American who studies Canada, I've been amazed as to how little pride Canadians have in things that come from Canada. There is pride about Tim Horton's and Canadian Tire but the backlash against Canadian film and television is only part of the negativity. People flourished to Target Canada but rejected the company in part because the company didn't act like it did in the United States. Where was that love for Zeller's, which Target replaced in a number of locations?
As much as I love Canada and ketchup and Canadian ketchup, my tiebreaker will be taste. The reason I lugged bottles of Heinz Canada ketchup is that the taste was less sweet than the U.S. version. Picking Heinz in the U.S. has even come down to being less sweet than other brands. Since the switch in ingredients order, even Heinz Canada isn't as good as it once was.
I can be swayed to jump ship to French's or PC Ketchup if they aren't sweeter than Heinz Canada. I would be willing to bring some French's or PC Ketchup across the border for a taste test. Restaurants in Canada aren't likely to have anything but Heinz, so buying some might be my only option.
Regardless of your taste in ketchup, so glad to see a battle over "Made in Canada" mean something again.
photo credit: smartcanucks.ca; @brianfernandez Twitter