While Teresa Heinz Kerry was on the platform at the Democratic Convention Tuesday night, somebody somewhere was lining a hot dog with ketchup.
Maybe it was Heinz. Or maybe it was W Ketchup, a new kid on the political block of condiments, where one’s squeeze bottle might as well be shaped like a donkey or an elephant.
W Ketchup, based in Eagle Bridge, N.Y., offers an alternative to what the company says is the Democratic Heinz.
“Choose Heinz and you’re supporting Teresa Heinz and her liberal causes, such as Kerry for President,” the W Ketchup Web site says. Teresa Heinz Kerry was married for 25 years to Heinz heir (and congressman) H. John Heinz III. He was killed when his chartered planed crashed into a helicopter in 1991. She later married Sen. John Kerry, now the Democratic nominee for president.
“Choose W Ketchup,” the site continues, “and you support the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships to the children of our brave heroes who have fallen in battle.”
A portion of each W Ketchup sale is donated to the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund. The fund offers scholarships to children of active-duty service members killed in the line of duty.
“When I heard that W Ketchup was donating a portion of their sales to the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund, I shouted, ‘Hot dog!'” said Freedom Alliance President Tom Kilgannon on the W Ketchup site. “We relish the opportunity to be involved with such a great product and a great team.”
W Ketchup comes in 24 oz. plastic squeeze bottles and is currently available via the Web only. A minimum order is four bottles, which costs $12 combined, plus shipping.
The Web site says the “W” stands for Washington. In fact, the bottle’s label features a picture of George Washington, the American flag, an eagle and two Revolutionary War soldiers. It’s emblazoned with a “W” and, beneath that, “America’s Ketchup.”
The company says all of its ketchup ingredients are grown in America. The tomatoes come from California, and they’re turned into ketchup in the Midwest before being bottled in Fremont, Ohio.
“The leading competitor not only has 57 varieties, but has 57 foreign factories as well,” the site says, referring to the H.J. Heinz Company. “W Ketchup comes in one flavor: American.”
In its advertisement in the National Review, the company used the tagline, “You don’t support Democrats. Why should your Ketchup?”
The H.J. Heinz Company has worked to get its All-American message out as well.
The Heinz Web site asserts that Heinz Tomato Ketchup sold in the United States is “All-American” and made at plants in Ohio, Iowa and California. It cites a single exception in a plant housed in Ontario, Canada, 35 miles from the U.S. border.
The company says 60 percent of its sales occur outside the United States and, for that reason, it manufactures some of its products in overseas facilities.
But that fact isn’t clogging the bottle of Heinz public relations.
“Heinz Ketchup is a non-partisan condiment that simply stands for great taste. It’s enjoyed by Republicans, Democrats and Independents,” said Debbie Foster, vice president of corporate communications for Heinz, in a press release. “Heinz has been the favorite of Americans across the political spectrum for 135 years, and we have no intention of engaging in a political food fight now.”
The Heinz homepage also features a special red, white and blue button announcing the following: “Heinz Company Confirms Its Widely Held Public Ownership and Non-Partisan Status.”
Clicking the button takes users to two press releases, dated March 22 and July 14, 2004. The gist of the former is that neither Teresa Heinz Kerry nor John Kerry is involved in the management or board of the H.J. Heinz Company; the gist of the latter is that Teresa Heinz Kerry, John Kerry and their family trusts and endowments do not hold “a significant percentage” of the company shares.
Other information from the Heinz Web site places Teresa Heinz Kerry and John Kerry’s company share holdings under 4 percent.
The Heinz Company declares itself “non-partisan and politically independent,” noting that its practice is to support both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. According to a company press release, the Heinz Company PAC donated $5,000 to the Bush campaign and, because the Kerry campaign does not accept PAC money, $5,000 to the Democratic National Committee.
“We don’t begrudge Teresa Heinz her money,” said the W Ketchup company on its Web site, “we just think people should have a choice not to support the Democratic party when they buy their ketchup.”
“And most of all, we think people should have the choice to choose a delicious ketchup that doesn’t have a harsh, vinegary taste.”
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.