Heinz targets U.S. restaurants engaged in ‘Ketchup Fraud’

Heinz Ketchup says it is going after restaurants caught red-handed attempting to pass off an another product as its brand.

Playing on its longstanding “It has to be Heinz” positioning, the U.S. focused “Ketchup Fraud” campaign from Rethink is using large-scale out-of-home ads in New York and Chicago, accompanied by print ads in titles including The New York Times, US Weekly, and In Touch, as well as social media. The ads recreate scenes of restaurant workers refilling a Heinz bottle with a generic substitute, accompanied by the line “Even when it isn’t Heinz, it has to be Heinz.”

Heinz North America marketing director Megan Lang said the campaign was inspired by a “simple but powerful” Snapchat in which someone was captured on camera refilling a Heinz bottle with another product. Subsequent social listening, she said, found this to be “true and widespread” behaviour.

“We thought, what better way to express our core brand belief that ‘It Has to Be Heinz’ than to simply amplify an existing consumer behaviour in a supportive and funny way?” said Lang.

Heinz is also asking consumers to tag restaurants they suspect of committing “ketchup fraud” on its Instagram page. It plans to contact the most tagged restaurants and work to a solution that “ultimately helps consumers get the ketchup that they want, while supporting these local restaurants.”

It’s not the first time Heinz has gone after restaurants attempting to pass off rival brands as its ketchup. “[W]ithin the industry, the practice is no secret,” said a 2000 article in The Wall Street Journal, in which Heinz said that at least 20% of restaurants it talked to admitted to refilling their bottles with something other than Heinz.

One restaurant admitted to buying Hunt’s ketchup in 28.5-pound bags and pouring it into empty Heinz bottles. “It’s a messy job,” one employee told the Journal. At the time, the brand was trying to get restaurants to switch out its traditional see-through bottles for a plastic squeeze bottle with an unremovable top.

Starcom’s Publicis 57 handled U.S. media for the campaign, with Zeno on public relations.

Chris Powell