McDonalds will end its 40-year, ketchup-based relationship with Heinz, the company announced on Friday, because Heinz's new CEO, Bernardo Hees, is the former CEO of Burger King. He's also still on Burger King's board of directors. Now McDonalds is currently looking for a new ketchup maker to partner with once it phases Heinz out of its stores. Heinz supplies ketchup to both McDonalds (for now!) and Burger King, and to Wendy’s and Chick-fil-A. For McDonalds, at least, it seems that the new Burger King connection at Heinz was one step too far. McDonalds has taken a stand on ketchup.
Except most Americans will not be able to appreciate McDonalds's bravery: the company only uses branded Heinz ketchup packets in two U.S. markets. Those are Pittsburgh, where Heinz is based, and Minneapolis. Most other Americans squeeze generic packets of "Fancy Ketchup" onto their fries. That's because McDonalds split with the company once before, in the 1970s, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explains:
The Pittsburgh company had 90 percent of the business supplying ketchup and pickles to the fast-growing chain, according to author John F. Love's 1986 book, "McDonald's: Behind the Arches."
After Heinz couldn't meet McDonald's need for ketchup as a result of a tomato shortage, the restaurant chain took most of its business elsewhere.
The change will, however, be noticed internationally, where McDonalds uses Heinz more often. Of course, McDonalds could take an even bolder stance and use this opportunity to do away with ketchup, the least of the condiments, altogether.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.