Sunday 24 August 2014

H. J. Heinz: The Last Drop of Ketchup

"Before the Great Depression, before colour photos or the world wars, there was the H.J. Heinz Company in Leamington."  

FILES/The Windsor Star

Heinz Factory circa 1920's courtesy

In June of 2014, the last drop of ketchup was squeezed into a bottle at the H. J. Heinz Company that closed its doors putting 1000 people out of work and leaving a huge hole in the community.  Heinz, located in Leamington, Ontario on the shores of Lake Erie, was the town's largest taxpayer and water user.  The Leamington company, the second largest Heinz company in the world, served as the official sponsor for Tomato Fest each summer.

File/The Windsor Star

Cartloads of tomatoes arrive at the Heinz Factory courtesy

When we visited Leamington four years ago, we saw trucks laden with tomatoes on their way to and from the factory with the signature smokestack located on Erie Ave.  However, when we visited this summer, we didn't see any tomato trucks.  In years past, Heinz bought 225,000 tons of tomatoes at $95 a ton from 43 Ontario farmers.  Workers would fill the trademark plastic (originally glass) bottles with the label "57 varieties" with the world famous ketchup each day.


Heinz assembly line circa 2009 courtesy

Heinz not only made ketchup but also tomato juice, tomato soup, tomato juice, baby food and baked beans.  During the First World War, the Leamington plant mailed hundreds of cans of beans to the Canadian soldiers stationed overseas. One young officer was so appreciative that he wrote a thank you note on the back of a Heinz label.

The smoke does not plume from the smokestack on Erie Ave. anymore.  But we have the memories.  Local historian Scott Holland has written an account in his book A Century in the Making:  The History of Heinz in Canada 1909 - 2009.

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