The Great Canadian Ketchup War

Posted by on Apr 3, 2016 in Frugal For Everyone, Product Information | 19 comments


Great Canadian Ketchup War

The Great Canadian Ketchup War has turned into the best unintentional marketing ploy ever. It all started when Loblaws, the largest Canadian food retailer, decided to remove French’s Ketchup from their shelves, allegedly to boost sales of their own President’s Choice product.

When I first heard about it I didn’t pay much attention, after all, since we no longer have children living at home ketchup is not something we use much anymore. But then things turned interesting and became fun to watch. Customers weren’t going to put up with the loss of French’s Ketchup no way, no how and let that be known loud and clear. They threatened to boycott the Loblaws stores and turned to social media to voice their displeasure.

At that point Loblaws had little choice but to accept defeat and replace French’s Ketchup back on their shelves. But the war wasn’t over.

Since 2008 there has been a lot of  ‘Buy Canadian First’ promotion in order to keep our economy moving. Well, it seems the consumer has been taking this to heart and  the next question became – which of the Ketchups is the most Canadian? This turned out to create some confusion because:

  • French’s Ketchup uses tomatoes grown in Leamington, Ontario but is bottled in Ohio
  • President’s Choice Ketchup uses tomatoes grown in California but is bottled in Ontario

Since French’s uses Canadian tomatoes, which of course is the main ingredient in Ketchup, consumers declared French’s the winner in the most Canadian category.

French’s meanwhile took advantage of the free publicity and kept the feud going by declaring they were going to be bottling their Ontario grown tomatoes in Canada within the next couple of weeks. A big win for them.

But the consumer still wasn’t satisfied and the war moved on to which of the two Ketchups has the best ingredients.

I still had some President’s Choice Ketchup leftover from last summer’s barbecue season and decided to buy a bottle of French’s Ketchup in order to compare the two.

The results:

  • French’s Ketchup ingredient List:
    • Tomato Paste (Made from fresh ripe tomatoes)
    • Liquid Sugar
    • White Vinegar
    • Salt
    • Onion Powder
    • Spices
  • President’s Choice Ketchup ingredient List:
    • Tomato Paste (Made from fresh ripe tomatoes)
    • Liquid Sugar
    • White Vinegar
    • Salt
    • Seasonings

It was difficult to base a winner on that – other than a bit of difference in wording, the ingredient list is pretty well the same.  

We have often heard that people from other countries consider Canadians the most polite people and this was amply demonstrated during the Great Canadian Ketchup War. In the final analysis there were no losers since the entire war was ‘fought’ with grace and humour. French’s and Loblaw’s received a lot of free publicity which will no doubt lead to an increase in sales; the consumer found power in speaking up and were treated with respect and listened to. And of course, French’s Ketchup will once again take up space on the Loblaw shelves.

This post was not written to promote any one product or supermarket chain. As a matter of fact, most Supermarkets carry French’s Ketchup right alongside Hunt’s Ketchup, Heinz Ketchup and their own store brand. I wrote this post because I got a big chuckle out of our Great Canadian Ketchup War and simply wanted to share it. Hope you enjoyed it as well.

Talk to you again next week,


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  1. Lenie — thanks for the fun story. You may remember years ago when Coca-Cola decided to change the formulation of Coke. Consumers were outraged and it stirred up a big brouhaha. The company quickly retreated and reintroduced the original formula now called Coca-Cola Classic. A cautionary tale of you better know what your customers want.

  2. Great post Lenie, and all of a sudden I’m craving catsup! I get a kick out of things like this. I mean some might say there are so many BIGGER things in the world to worry about, but maybe that’s the point, we can’t take ourselves so seriously ALL the time. Thanks!

  3. Eeks, I missed out! Maybe cuz I live on the West Coast? What an amusing and in its own peculiar way, uplifting story! I say uplifting as rivalry needn’t be dirty. It can be fun and mutually beneficial, not just to participants (in this case sellers of two brands of ketchup and the public), but also to other ketchup-making and condiment-making companies. Thanks, Lenie. 🙂

  4. That is a funny story. I’m not sure they have French’s ketchup where I live. I wrote a post last year to compare different ketchup brands. What I found is that they are all basically the same. Even the organic ones have all the same ingredients. I guess ketchup is really just ketchup.

    • Hi Erica, Ketchup being just ketchup makes it even funnier that people really are so passionate about it. As far as I’m concerned I couldn’t possibly tell the difference between any of them but there must be something to it because the consumers made enough noise for it to make the news. At the same time, it did become interesting to watch where it was going next.

  5. Hard to see any difference between the two, though I am sure there are many fans of one or the other who vow that it is superior. A lot of times when I see store brands I suspect that the manufacturer is the same as one of the name brands but just slaps a different label on and sells at a discount without undermining the price structure of the main brand. Good story!

    • Ken, you are the second person to mention about the name brands and the generic brands are being manufactured in the same place. Wouldn’t it be funny if they found out that both ketchups in the ketchup war actually were the same thing? That would have been the perfect ending to the ‘war’.

  6. So either ketchup brand can be considered kinda sorta Canadian given neither one is solely sourced and produced in Canada. This is a great post though that gets at how invested people can become in products and trying to prove their worth. My dad and one of my sisters put ketchup on lots of stuff, but I save it for french fries and the occasional burger.

    • Jeri, just goes to show that there are really strong ties between the States and Canada – even our ketchups are united. LOL One thing that nobody mentioned- Where are the bottles themselves made? China sounds like a pretty safe bet. 🙂

  7. When I grew up there was a ketchup war in Sweden between Heinz and a Swedish brand called Felix. Was personally at that age very much pro Heinz. Stopped having ketchup a long time ago so I have not followed up in that department.

    • Catarina, that is too funny. People sure have strong feelings about their ketchup, amazing. I just got a real kick out of ‘who was going to respond next and how’. Personally, I don’t get that excited about any food – much prefer experimenting with my own. Have you ever had green tomato ketchup? My sons were just talking about that last week. According to them it was pretty good if you considered it relish. 🙂

  8. Chips just do not taste the same without ketchup! I cannot fathom why people add ketchup to every meal though.

    I was astonished to discover how much sugar is found in ketchup. One dollop is ample!

    Protests over ketchup, hmm……….

    • Phoenicia, I guess our Canadian Ketchup war wasn’t the first. Catarina just told me that there was a similar one in Sweden years ago between Heinz and Felix. People really do get passionate about their ketchup, wow.

  9. I haven’t hear of the Canadian ketchup war. But it was interesting to me. Thanks for sharing. Any wars about mustard? lol

    • Sabrina, I’m at the age where nothing surprises me anymore so I wouldn’t be surprised if the mustard war was next. Stay tuned, I’ll keep watching for it.

  10. Thx for this post, Lenie. Like you, we don’t use much ketchup. but I did really find the public battle over shelf space at Loblaw’s to be a fascinating one and am glad that they will be carrying both brands. Canada did indeed win in that more jobs may be created to bottle that French’s ketchup which was previously bottled in the US. How ironic!

    • Doreen, do you want to know a funny thing? When I went to buy the French’s Ketchup for this post I first went to NoFrills, one of the stores that belongs to the Loblaws group and they didn’t have the French’s ketchup. Whether they hadn’t had time to restock or were sold out due to the publicity I don’t know. So I went to Metro who did have it on their shelves. I just thought the whole thing was a hoot and I never even thought about the job angle – guess that’s what retirement does to you, you simply stop thinking work.LOL

  11. Lenie, my husband and I rarely use ketchup so didn’t feel vested in any way in this “war”, but it is funny to think how a simple condiment got people so wound up. I enjoyed your writing about it.

    • Donna, we don’t use ketchup either – we only have it in the house for the grandkids. But I was a little like you – really, this is making the news? But it did strike my funny bone. The thing I did like about it all was that no one turned nasty – it all seemed to be taken in fun. Not too many protests end that way right? 🙂

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