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He recognised that high quantities of poor preservatives were being used to prop up unsavoury manufacturing conditions in the food industry and that better regulation of ingredients would force factory owners to improve sanitation. As a result, he asked his food chefs to dedicate their time to creating a lasting, more natural recipe for ketchup, and, in 1904, they had a breakthrough.
The company’s chief food scientist, G.F. Mason, managed to create a stable, self-preserving recipe by replacing artificial ingredients with natural ingredients, including sugar, salt and vinegar. It was clean, natural and very importantly didn’t spoil, meaning that, by 1906, Heinz was able to produce 5 million bottles of naturally preserved ketchup a year. Adding extra vinegar not only pickled the tomato pulp and protected it from microbial growth but also improved the taste of the product, with sugar adding extra sweetness. For customers used to bitter and tart ketchups, Heinz’s invention represented an evolution of taste.
As Heinz executive, Sebastian Mueller, declared, “No preservative is needed as long as the best raw materials, sound methods and proper sanitation are employed in bottling ketchup.”
This higher quality ketchup cost more to produce and so Heinz’s products were more expensive than competitors’ products, making the move to natural preservatives a big risk. Heinz compensated with hiring ambassadors for his brand who would travel and demonstrate the purity of the product and by campaigning furiously for legal regulation of the food industry.
In 1905, Heinz executives visited President Roosevelt at the White House to canvas support for a Pure Food and Drug Act. When asked why manufacturers such as themselves supported a cause that would interfere with their production methods and cost them a lot of money, Heinz’s son, Howard Heinz, argued that the law “would inspire a confidence in commercially prepared foods; and [as] my company would get its full share of the larger business; in helping the industry we should be helping ourselves.”
The executives then demonstrated the number of harmful preservatives in Roosevelt’s preferred brand of scotch and won the President’s support. The law, which passed in 1906, required manufacturers to substantiate their claims of quality with clear and thorough ingredients labelling - a victory for Heinz and his associates.
Increased regulation of food products and a number of high profile case studies had triggered public concern over food manufacturing conditions - forcing producers to clean up their act. Heinz’s own factories were models of cleanliness, with employees able to use the onsite gymnasium and swimming pool, given free life insurance and access to medical services. An on-site manicurist also encouraged workers to uphold high standards of personal cleanliness.
In 1908, Heinz wrote, "It is always safe to buy the products of an establishment that keeps its doors open,” and allowed 30,000 members of the public to tour the factory premises. With transparent packaging and transparent manufacturing methods, Heinz truly felt he had nothing to hide.