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The 125-year-old lie on your Heinz bottle

Heinz tomato sauce with circle around 57 varieties
You've probably never noticied this slogan on many Heinz products. (Source: Getty)

Australians have been drowning their sausage sizzles in Heinz ketchup - or tomato sauce, as we prefer to call it - for decades.

But few would know that the “57 varieties” slogan that takes pride of place on the front label is a bogus figure.

The company was not producing 57 product varieties when it first appeared on branding material in the 1890s.

The number was apparently made up by Pittsburgh business magnate H.J. Heinz in 1896 because he thought attaching a number to the brand was a good marketing strategy.


As the story goes, he once saw an ad for “21 styles” of shoes and the number stuck in his mind.

Still, no one is exactly sure why he landed on 57.

The company’s brand director reckons it’s a combination of five, his lucky number, and seven, his wife's lucky number.

But someone who actually knew the man, Heinz's personal secretary, thought seven grabbed his attention when he was counting the number of varieties they were selling at the time.

Today, the “57 varieties” slogan is a fairly muted component of the branding strategy. But back when it was first introduced, the number was emblazoned on 57 hillsides along train lines and appeared on New York City’s first electric billboard.

Heinz today

Kraft Heinz is now a global food company that saw net sales of around US$26 billion in 2021.

Back in 2015, Kraft Foods and H.J. Heinz merged to become the third-biggest food and beverage company in the US.

The deal was orchestrated by Heinz's owners, Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital, and famed investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.

The company now claims to be the fifth-largest food and beverage company in the world and has more than eight brands worth more than US $1 billion each.

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