Heinz Ain’t Tomato-y Enough to Be Ketchup in Israel
(JTA) — In the United States, Heinz is nearly synonymous with ketchup, but Israel has kicked the brand out of that category of condiments all together.
Israel’s Health Ministry recently ruled that the Heinz brand product does not contain enough “tomato solids” to be labeled as ketchup in Israeli stores. It will now be relegated to the title “tomato seasoning,” Ynet reported.
The ruling was the result of a lobbying campaign by Israeli food manufacturer Osem, which produces a large portion of the ketchup consumed in Israel. Israelis have long complained that local monopolies distort the economy, and especially the food market, leading to high prices on products like cottage cheese and Milky brand pudding.
In a letter the company sent to retailers back in January, Osem claimed that it had tested Heinz ketchup in a “leading European external laboratory” and found that it only contained 21 percent tomato concentrate instead of the 61 percent it advertised to consumers. Israeli trade standards require ketchup to have at least 41 percent tomato concentrate.
The letter sparked a war of words between Osem and Diplomat, the company that distributes Heinz ketchup in Israel. Osem controls about two thirds of the market for Israeli ketchup, leaving Heinz in a distance second place in terms of sales.
“Obviously, Osem, which has a monopoly, would be happy if it were only possible to sell their product in Israel,” a spokesperson for Diplomat told Ynet in January. “But Osem’s claims have no substance.”
Osem fired back, claiming that no one else had raised legitimate concerns about the composition of Heinz’s product.
According to Haaretz, Diplomat is currently petitioning to change the Health Ministry’s standards in order to allow Heinz to qualify as ketchup once more.
In the meantime, consumers may be left wondering about Heinz ketchup’s actual tomato content.
Gabe Friedman is JTA’s condiments correspondent