H.J. Heinz Co.

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In 1869, Henry John Heinz and L. Clarence Noble established Heinz & Noble to bottle horseradish in Sharpsburg, Pa. The company did well until a crop surplus in 1875 drove it to bankruptcy. The following year, Mr. Heinz opened F&J Heinz—named for his partners, his cousin Frederick and brother John—to sell prepared foods, including his new tomato ketchup. In 1877, the company added canned goods to its line of products, and in1880 it became the first U.S. marketer to sell sweet pickles.

Mr. Heinz ordered the sides of his delivery wagons painted with pictures of the Heinz farms and products, in particular its pickles. In 1888, the company name changed to H.J. Heinz Co., and it spent $10,000 promoting itself via calendars, souvenir books, pickle cards and spoons, and small watch-chain charms shaped like a pickle.

In 1893, Heinz displayed its wares at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago but, since few fairgoers were willing to climb the stairs to the Agricultural Building's second floor to see Heinz's exhibit, Mr. Heinz printed up cards offering visitors a free souvenir. So many people flocked to receive the pickle charms that the supports of the gallery had to be strengthened to accommodate the weight of the crowds.

Mr. Heinz also adapted the pickle charms into pins and continued to give them away, presenting them to people who toured the company plant, a first for U.S. business. Streetcars carried Heinz color cards with verses, and Heinz signs were posted along every U.S. mainline railroad.

In 1892, Heinz advertising began carrying the image of a pickle and the slogan "57 varieties"—even though the company then made more than 60 products, Mr. Heinz liked the sound of the 57 phrase—inside the keystone symbol used by the state of Pennsylvania. In 1898, the company opened Heinz Ocean Pier in Atlantic City, N.J., and promoted its products there for 46 years. Mr. Heinz was also among the first to advertise with electric outdoor signs, designing a 40-foot-long pickle for a six-story electric sign at Heinz's Atlantic City pier. Mr. Heinz died in 1919, leaving his son Howard to lead the company as president through the Great Depression, when it added baby food and ready-to-serve soups to its product lines. By 1937, business had doubled.

Association with Maxon

In 1934, the marketer began a 30-year relationship with Detroit-based Maxon Inc., which created Heinz's Aristocrat Tomato Man, a tomato-headed character clad in top hat and tails first used in mid-1930s print ads for Heinz tomato juice. Mr. Aristocrat subsequently appeared in ads for ketchup, soup and juice dressed as a farmer, Scotsman and cowboy.

In 1941, Howard's son, Henry John "Jack" Heinz, took over the company as president-CEO. During the war, Heinz promoted its products with slogans such as "Beans to bombers" and "Pickles to pursuit planes." After the war, the company went public, expanded its international operations and entered into TV advertising.

Heinz's ad expenditures for 1954 were estimated at $6 million, with about $4 million in measured media. The marketer declared 1957 the "Year of Heinz," running spots on 86 TV stations on New Year's Eve 1956 wishing viewers, "Our best to you in '57 from the 57 Varieties."

In fall 1958, Heinz moved heavily into daytime TV, co-sponsoring four 15-minute contestant-based programs a week on NBC to expand its reach to homemakers. In 1959, Heinz increased its sponsorship to eight shows.

By 1960, Heinz's annual ad expenditures topped $11 million. That same year Maxon launched the "Red Magic" ketchup campaign in 1960 that featured the company's Mr. Aristocrat trade character.

Other agencies

In April 1964, Heinz moved its account out of Maxon, assigning ketchup, chili sauce and soup business to Doyle Dane Bernbach, New York; pickles, relishes and baby food to Grey Advertising, New York; and beans, sauces, vinegars and other products to Ketchum, MacLeod & Grove, Pittsburgh and New York.

In 1965, R. Burt Gookin, a 20-year company veteran, became CEO of Heinz. He had restructured the company and led two domestic acquisitions: StarKist in 1963 and Ore-Ida in 1965. In 1968, Heinz's ad spending reached an estimated $21 million. The company celebrated its centenary in 1969. Its Heinz 57 logo was dropped in favor of stylized text reading "Heinz" on a bright red background. (The marketer retained Heinz 57 primarily as a product trademark and promotional device.)

In October 1970, Heinz moved its baby food and pickles accounts from Grey to DDB and Ketchum. At about that time Heinz Great American Soups made headlines with a TV spot from Ketchum that was said to cost the then-large amount of $154,000 to produce. Stan Freberg directed the musical extravaganza, which starred dancer Ann Miller and featured Mr. Freberg's satiric song, "Let's Face the Chicken Gumbo & Dance."

Heinz's sales topped $1 billion for the first time in the company's history in 1971. The company's Heinz USA unit assigned its ketchup account to Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, in 1974. Burnett had created the Charlie the Tuna character (a low-class fish who had delusions of being good enough for StarKist) in 1961, prior to the brand's purchase by Heinz and continued working on it under Heinz ownership. Another StarKist product was 9-Lives cat food, for which Burnett created another of its most famous characters, Morris "the finicky cat," in 1969.

Heinz spent $36 million on domestic advertising in 1974, $20.5 million of it in measured media.

Ketchup campaigns

Ketchup sales had been stagnant for several years and Heinz had a 37% market share when DDB created its final effort for Heinz, "Heinz is what ketchup tastes like."

After 1974, Burnett refocused advertising on the product's thickness and slow speed out of the bottle. It created a campaign featuring the Carly Simon song "Anticipation." The campaign ran through 1979, and market share grew to 40% in the first two years of the effort. TV spots from 1980 to '83 featured strainer and plate tests, as Burnett turned to competitive demonstrations to link Heinz ketchup's thickness with quality and taste. Market share grew to 46%.

In 1984, the marketer broke a new Burnett campaign, titled "Thick, Rich One"; by year's end, Heinz's market reached almost 50%. Heinz would increase that to 55% in 1986 and 56% in 1987. Heinz U.S. ad spending also topped $340 million in 1988, $150 million of that in measured media. Its media spending for ketchup alone grew to $17.3 million, a 50% increase largely attributed to promotion of its revamped 64-ounce Ketchup Lover's plastic bottle. The 1990s started with Burnett's "The best things in life never change" theme.

Burnett resigned the Heinz USA account in 1994 due to ad budget cuts. William R. Johnson became president-CEO of Heinz in 1998, and by October, Heinz had returned to Burnett, selecting the agency to handle global advertising and brand positioning for Heinz ketchup and other condiments and sauces.

Burnett's next work for Heinz USA was the "Ketchup With Attitude" campaign targeting teens. In October 2000, Heinz introduced green ketchup, the hottest product in the company's history: Heinz met its full-year sales goal for the new product in just 90 days, and green ketchup quickly acquired a 6% market share.

At the same time, the company's North American operation launched a multimedia advertising and promotion campaign building on the successful introduction of the first ketchup product made especially for kids, Heinz EZ Squirt, which also debuted in 2000. Heinz partnered with TV's Kids' WB! network to develop an online art sweepstakes and premiered spots featuring kids using the container's special squirt-top feature in creative ways.

By the end of the 20th century, H.J. Heinz Co. marketed more than 5,700 varieties and tallied sales of more than $9 billion. Nearly half the marketer's sales were from non-U.S. operations, and nearly 70% of sales came from non-Heinz-branded products.

In 2001, Heinz burnished its hometown connection by acquiring the name rights to the new home of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, Heinz Field. The 20-year deal cost the marketer $57 million.

Later in 2001, Heinz ended its relationship with broadcast-buying agency of record, WPP Group’s Media Edge, and spread the responsibilities among its four creative brand agencies that had previously handled creative, planning and buying of other media: Bcom3's Leo Burnett Co. (with Starcom) for ketchup, sauces and condiments; WPP's J. Walter Thompson Co. (with MindShare) for pet food and pet snacks; Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, San Francisco, for frozen foods; and Empower, Cincinnati, for StarKist tuna.

In late 2002, Heinz sold off its StarKist tuna and pet food brands Kibbles 'n Bits and 9-Lives, among others, to Del Monte Foods.

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