Heinz leaves its mark on secondhand clothing

Heinz Ketchup has quite literally left its mark on millions of items of clothing over its 146-year history, sometimes permanently. Now the condiment brand is offering consumers a chance to buy designer threads that come pre-stained with its product.

Working with agency partner Rethink, the brand recently introduced a clothing collection called “Vintage Drip,” which consists of 157 thrifted clothes items that come covered in Heinz Ketchup’s signature red stain.

The clothes are being sold through the online resale platform thredUP, with proceeds to the global hunger relief organization Rise Against Hunger. Each clothing item features a conspicuous ketchup stain that has been made with real Heinz Ketchup, although the brand proclaims that “It’s not a stain, it’s a statement.”

However you regard it, it’s the latest in a series of attention-getting stunts conceived by the mad marketers at Heinz and Rethink in recent years.

They include last year’s award-winning “Draw Ketchup,”  and “Heinz Hot Dog Pact,” as well as smaller efforts like Cold Ketchup and a slow-loading website.

They’re specifically intended to be catnip for media, and not surprisingly, “Vintage Drip” program has received extensive coverage from outlets as varied as the U.K.’s Daily Mail, and the city blog Thrillist, as well as food publications like Food & Wine and  Delish.

“While Heinz is recognized globally for its iconic glass bottle, keystone and slow-pouring ketchup, we saw an opportunity to view the stain we’ve been leaving on clothes as another iconic brand symbol and change the narrative from a stain to a statement,” said brand manager, brand communications Alyssa Cicero in a release.

The first clothing drop debuted on Aug. 30, with a second planned for Sept. 13. The North American marketing program is being supported by online video and owned social, with the creative approach inspired by fashion shoots. In addition to Rethink, Canadian agency partners on the program include Carat for media, The Kitchen for social, and Middle Child for PR and influencer.

Clothing collections have been something of a hotbed of marketing activity recently, with brands as varied as the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission, the Canadian Mental Health Association and cannabis beverage company Little Victory all experimenting with different fashion statements.

This isn’t even Heinz’s first foray into clothing. In 2020, the company’s baby food brand Heinz by Nature introduced “The Lockdown Lovebaby Collection,” a line of pandemic-inspired onesies and bibs featuring messages like “My parents put more than just sourdough buns in the oven,” and “While you were hoarding TP my parents were making me.”

Can the “Spit-up” collection be far behind?

Chris Powell