French’s catches up to patriotic demand with all-Canadian ketchup starting now

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It’s been more than a year since ketchup was thrust under the nationalistic limelight, as one man’s Facebook campaign to get Canadians to boycott market leader Heinz for closing its Canadian factory went viral, and boosted the popularity of rivals such as French’s in the process.

French’s was eager to gobble up all the goodwill, but this week the company took another step to ingratiate itself with Canadians by cranking up production at a factory north of downtown Toronto, which, at full capacity, will churn out 250 bottles of ketchup every minute.

The ingredients are Canadian. The workers are Canadian. And now, all French’s ketchup sold in Canada will be bottled here too, at the Select Foods Product facility in North York.

Previously some French’s ketchup sold in Canada was manufactured in the United States, but that’s no longer the case.

Brooke Gilliford, French’s country manager for Canada, said the move is the latest in a logical progression that started about two years ago when the company’s procurement managed to secure a large amount of Canadian tomatoes from Leamington, Ont. — the self-professed Tomato Capital of Canada.

Brooke Gilliford French's

‘A sense of nationalism can actually fuel the sales,’ French’s regional manager for Canada Brooke Gilliford says of the company’s recent move to all-Canadian ketchup. (Jacqueline Hansen/CBC)

“This was the next natural step to make sure that the end result was 100 per cent Canadian,” she said.

The partnership will create about 10 full-time jobs at the plant, but the vast majority of the product — from the ingredients right down to the boxes and labels — are now Canadian-made, too.

It pays to wave the flag

French’s was an inadvertent beneficiary of the early anti-Heinz backlash, but playing to nationalism is a growing trend, marketing experts say — even among famously subdued Canadians.

“In today’s day and age people are willing to spend a little more on a lot of things because of what it represents to them,” marketing expert Marion Chan at TrendSpotter Consulting says.

Price and quality will always be huge factors in buying decisions, Chan says, but consumers are increasingly willing to put their money behind companies that espouse values they believe in.

“I’ve walked into grocery stores where the Heinz Ketchup is a dollar less than the French’s ketchup and the French’s ketchup [shelf] is empty,” she said. “People are really passionate about this.”

Locally sourced produce is a growing consumer trend, and not just from people wanting to know where their food comes from — some people want to spend locally too.

Andrew Mitchell, the owner of Select Foods Product Ltd., says his company turned unused storage space into a functioning production line precisely because it knew the demand was there from people who espouse things like the famous 100-mile (160 kilometre) diet, which mandates people only eat food that’s in season and hailing from close to where they live.

“People want to know that their food and the things that they hold dear … is made locally with local ingredients,” he said.

It’s good business for him, but French’s and consumers come out ahead too, he said.

“The consumer gets a made-in-Canada product,” he said “We help our employees, we hire more people, it’s good for the community [and] we give back to French’s.”

“It’s a virtuous cycle.”

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French’s catches up to patriotic demand with all-Canadian ketchup starting now

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