Ketchup War documentary

Patriotic ketchup war started by Ontario man in new documentary

Ketchup may seem like an innocent, tasty condiment found in everyone's fridge, but a simple Facebook post that went viral in 2016 unintentionally divided the country, kick-starting Canada's most patriotic food fight.

Known as "The Ketchup War," an ongoing battle between two ketchup brands French's versus Heinz was ignited in this very province, with the people of Leamington, Ontario getting caught up in the dispute.

Back in 2014 before merging with Kraft, Heinz upset a lot of Canadians in the small municipality of Leamington near Windsor, when it sold its processing plant and moved its ketchup operations across the border to the U.S.

After operating for over 100 years as the area's largest employer, the cessation of operations by Heinz left over 740 Canadians out of work.

That's when French's, a brand known for its mustard, swooped in. It saw in 2015 an opportunity to win over a piece of the Canadian market that Heinz previously had a strong grip on.

They began manufacturing ketchup said to be made with only Canadian-grown tomatoes, specifically those grown by Leamington farmers. French's also eventually moved to bottling their ketchup in Canada as well, becoming a 100 per cent Canadian-made product.

In 2016, a Facebook post made by an Orillia man named Brian Fernandez that praised French's unexpectedly took off. Shared over a quarter of a million times, Fernandez detailed how Heinz left Canadians out of work, voicing his support for French's instead in the post. 

A series of events - including an endorsement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Loblaws reversing a decision to stop carrying French's due to backlash - led to a wave of free publicity for the brand shortly after.

French's ketchup, which was previously almost unheard of, quickly started outselling Heinz's ketchup 3 to 1. Six years after pulling their operations out of Leamington, Heinz backtracked and announced they would be reopening their Canadian operations, but at that point they had already lost 50 per cent of the market share to French's.

For a deeper look into the story, CBC just released a mini-documentary aptly titled 'The Ketchup War.' The 18-minute short is free to watch on their website and begs the question, are you team Heinz or team French's?

Lead photo by

The Ketchup War / CBC

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