Saturday, December 27, 2014

Henry Heinz: Man Behind the Famous Ketchup

Henry Heinz
Condiments help us to enjoy our food more. It allows us to personalize our food, suiting our snacks to our personal taste.  Mayonnaise, mustard, and Ketchup, give color and presentation. Ketchup is the most popular. One company made a name for this product, Heinz. But who was behind this very established company?

Henry Heinz (October 11, 1844 – May 14, 1919) was the founder of Heinz Company. As a child, he showed already an inclination for business. He received good education that helped him to establish his own business. He faced ups and downs but with his creativity, cleverness, and hardwork, he finally succeeded. He was unlike any other businessmen during his time that gave him confidence of his consumers.

Henry Heinz was born on October 11, 1844 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He came from a German descent family of Henry Heinz and Margaretha Schimdt. He received good education and even completed a business course at the Duff’s Business College. As a child, he showed an entrepreneurial spirit. At the age of eight, Heinz already became a merchant selling goods in Sharpsburg. He also became a bookkeeper for his father’s brick business. When he became old enough to become a partner of his father, he started to make his own improvements to the business. He made it more efficient and produce more bricks than ever. Moreover, he became a helper in his family’s farm. He learned a lot about farming, food processing, and even managing a farm. Heinz made the farm more profitable, especially with his farm delivering 3 wagons of produce a week.

In 1869, he began his own business with a friend, L. Clarence Noble. He and his partner formed the Heinz, Noble, & Company. It began to sell grated horseradish and sauerkraut to marketplace under the label the label Anchor Brand. It continued to operate for 8 years until the 1873 Panic that affected the country. And by 1875, the company became bankrupt.

However, on the same year, Heinz along with his brother John, cousin Frederick, and his wife, Sallie, formed the F & J Heinz Company. It manufactured processed food and condiments. A year later, they added a new product on the line. It was a sauce made from tomatoes – Ketchup.  They then began to produce it, packaged it in a bottle, and eventually made it a household item. Besides ketchup, they also began to use tin cans that allowed them to sell canned fruits and beans to the market. The new variety of products allowed Heinz and his company to become attractive and well-known. For advertisement, Heinz began to use billboards as well as placing nutritional value in his products for his customers. To increase their sales, they began to use exclusive salesmen that would go door to door in order to sell Heinz products. They also began to give cookbooks that used Heinz products on recipes. It helped customers on how to use Heinz products to make different dishes.

The company continued to grow and in 1888, it was reorganized and renamed as H. J. Heinz Company. A year later, the company opened a large food processing plant at Allegheny, Pennsylvania. The plant received praised by consumers and critics alike. The factory was not like any other. If other factories during those days displayed misery and hardships for the workers, Heinz plant was different. Its buildings are architecturally adorned with Romanesque designs. It allowed tourist to tour the factory and see the women workers dressed in white working in the factory. It allowed visitors to see the good working conditions and that Heinz products were clean and safe. As a testament to Heinz good labor-management relation, no workers went to strike. Henry Heinz’s plant was a model factory that many praised a lot.

In 1892, the World Fair kicked off in Chicago. It became an opportunity for Heinz to showcase his products to the world. During the Fair, Heinz placed his products and as a showpiece, he made a model battleship made from Heinz products. To demonstrate the taste of his goods, he used female demonstrators to give free samples to onlookers. It introduced his products to new customers both in the US and abroad. The 1892 World Fair helped Heinz to sell more products.

During the late 1890’s, Heinz continued his advertisement campaigns. In 1896, he began his slogan “57 Varieties.” Even though he had more than 57 varieties, he chose the number because he considered it as a lucky number. Then in 1900, he opened up the first electric billboard in Time Square. Placed in the Flatiron Building, this 6-story high billboard and illuminated by 1,200 bulbs dominated the square at night. It attracted many pedestrians. Some amused and some are not, but it did the purpose of publicity and increased the sale of Heinz products.

By 1900, Heinz was on the top of the processed food industry. Heinz was the largest producer of pickles, ketchup, mustard, and other condiments.  His success continued further and helped the company to grow. By 1905, the Heinz Company was incorporated with Henry Heinz as president.

In 1906, he yet again became under the spotlight of the nation. The 1906 Pure Food Act threatened many food processing company from shutting down. Heinz, however, didn’t join the protest against the act and in fact he supported the law. His support to the bill even brought more consumer confidence to his product.

In 1919, the company had expanded largely. It had over 6,000 employees, 25 factories, 85 processing plants, and had its own factory for his packaging.  However, in May 14, 1919, the founder of Heinz Company, Henry Heinz, died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From a small merchant to a very successful businessman, his biggest legacy can be seen in many tables and fridge all over the world.

See Also:

Allen, G & K. Albala (eds.). The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2007. 

Dobson, J. Bulls, Bears, Boom, and Bust: A Historical Encyclopedia of American Business Concepts. California: ABC-CLIO, 2007. 

Ingham, J. Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1983.

James, R. & L. Schulp. Historical Dictionary of the Gilded Age.  New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2003.

Skrabec, Q. Jr. The 100 Most Significant Events in American Business: An Encyclopedia. California: Greenwood, 2012.  

Upchurch, A. Historical Dictionary of the Gilded Age. Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2009.

“H.J. Heinz Biography.” Bio: True Story. Accessed on November 17, 2013.