How ketchup is made – ingredients of, manufacture, making, history, used, processing, product, industry

Table of Contents1 Background 2 Raw Materials 3 The Manufacturing Process 3.1 Developing quality tomatoes 3.2 Preparing tomatoes 3.3 Pulping 3.4 Adding ingredients and cooking 3.5 Finishing 3.6 Removing air 3.7 Filling 3.8 Cooling 3.9 Labeling and packing 4 Quality Control 5 The Future 6 Where To Learn More 6.1 […]


Ketchup, a tangy, seasoned tomato sauce, is one of America’s
favorite condiments. Although ketchup, also spelled catsup, is used
primarily as a relish for hamburgers, hot dogs, and french fries, it is
also a common ingredient for sauces, meatloaf, beans, and stews. During
the mid-1990s the sales of ketchup exceeded $400 million annually.

The tangy sauce originated in ancient China as a brine of pickled fish or
shellfish called “ke-tsiap.” Neighboring countries adopted
their own variations of “kechap” consisting of fish brine,
herbs, and spices. In the late 1600s, English sailors visiting Malaysia
and Singapore were so impressed with the sauce that they took samples
home. English cooks attempted to duplicate the spicy sauce, but without
access to some of the exotic Asian ingredients, they improvised with
cucumbers, mushrooms, nuts, oysters, and other variants.

One hundred years later, New Englanders created the definitive tomato
ketchup when Maine seamen returned from Mexico and the Spanish West Indies
with seeds of an exotic New World fruit called tomato. The tangy tomato
ketchup quickly became a popular sauce for codfish cakes, meat, and other

Making ketchup at home was a tedious, day-long process. The tomato
mixture, cooked in heavy iron kettles at wood-burning stoves, required
constant stirring to prevent it from burning. Scouring the preserving
kettles meticulously was also no easy task. To the relief of many
homemakers, ketchup became commercially available in the second half of
the 1800s.

H.J. Heinz Co. developed one of the first leading brands of mass-marketed
ketchup. The classic narrow-neck design of the Heinz ketchup bottle
established the norm for the industry. The narrow-neck bottle simplified
pouring the ketchup and minimized contact with air, which could darken the
sauce. Glass was an ideal container because it was inert and did not react
with the ketchup, and the clear glass allowed the consumer to see the
product. Initially, the bottles were sealed with cork, dipped by hand into
wax to prevent aeration, and topped with foil to further protect it from
contamination. By the turn of the century, screw caps provided a more
convenient closure. In the 1980s, plastic squeezable containers
revolutionized ketchup packaging and soon outsold glass containers.
Plastic was not only more convenient than glass for pouring the thick
sauce, but also safer. Ten years later, in response to environmental
concerns, recyclable plastic containers were also developed.

Raw Materials

The main ingredients of ketchup are tomatoes, sweeteners, vinegar,


spices, flavorings, onion, and/or garlic. The types of sweetener used are
usually granulated cane sugar or beet sugar. Other sweeteners include
dextrose or liquid sugar in the form of corn or glucose syrup. The white
vinegar, commonly 100-grain distilled, helps to preserve the ketchup. The
spices commonly used to enhance the flavor of the tomatoes are allspice,
cassia, cinnamon, cayenne, cloves, pepper, ginger, mustard, and paprika.
Some manufacturers believe that whole spices produce a superior, more mild
than ground spices or spice oils. More modern processes use premixed or
encapsulated spices, which are easier to use but more expensive. Whatever
the form, spices must be of a high quality.

The various brands of ketchup have slightly different formulas, which vary
primarily in the amounts of spices or flavorings. Thicker consistencies
require a greater ratio of sugar and spices relative to the tomato juice.
Occasionally formulas must be slightly adjusted according to variations in
the acid and sugar content of tomatoes, which occurs with changes in
growing conditions and types of tomatoes.

The Manufacturing


Developing quality tomatoes

  • 1 Ketchup manufacturers must seek out the best quality tomatoes for
    their product. Tomato varieties are developed which are superior in
    color, flavor, texture, and yield. Consistency is an important factor,
    as slight variations in tomato characteristics could alter the flavor
    and color of the finished product.

Preparing tomatoes

  • 2 Tomatoes are harvested mechanically between June and July. The fruit
    is commonly conveyed by water from the trucks into a flume, or an
    inclined channel. The water method washes the tomatoes and protects them
    from bruising while they pass from the truck to the factory. The U.S.
    Department of Agriculture or state inspectors approve and grade tomatoes
    to meet initial requirements. The tomatoes are sorted, washed, and
    chopped. Next, precooking, or scaling, in stainless steel vats preserves
    the tomatoes and destroys bacteria.

By the 1920s, when this photo was taken, ketchup operations were
highly mechanized.

(From the collections of Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield

The history of ketchup and the history of advertising are inextricably
intertwined. This is especially true in the case of the H.J. Heinz
Company, a firm that pioneered many elements of the prepared food
business and the modern advertising industry.

Born in 1844, Henry John Heinz began helping his mother with her gardens
along the Allegheny River, just east of Pittsburgh, when he was nine
years old. He learned business practices while working as a bookkeeper
for his father’s brickyard and at night school. By his teens he
was employing three women to help process garden products and bottling
his mother’s horseradish for distribution. Heinz distinguished
his horseradish from his competitors by using clear glass bottles to
emphasize the product’s purity.

Twenty years later, Heinz was operating another family food processing
firm. Riding the New York elevator one day in 1892, he saw a sign
advertising 21 varieties of shoes. He took the concept, came up with a
figure of


because he thought it was a memorable number, and created the catch
phrase “Heinz 57 Varieties.”

In 1893, seeking to bolster attendance at the World’s Columbian
Exposition in Chicago, Heinz distributed thousands of small tokens
throughout the fair grounds. The tokens were redeemable for a free Heinz
souvenir, a watch charm in the shape of a pickle, at the food pavilion,
which was soon overrun with visitors. The “pickle pin”
went on to become one of the best-known corporate souvenirs in history,
with over 100 million distributed.

In 1898, Heinz bought the Iron Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey,
renamed it the Heinz Ocean Pier, and operated it until 1945 as a free
public attraction with antique displays, lectures, concerts, and motion
pictures amid the displays of Heinz products and souvenirs.

William S. Pretzer


  • 3 The chopped and precooked tomatoes are pumped into pulping machines,
    or cyclones, which separate seeds, skins, and stems from the pulp. The
    pulp and juice are filtered through screens and processed further into
    ketchup, though some may be stored in a paste for use later in the year.

Adding ingredients and cooking

  • 4 The pulp is pumped into cooking tanks or kettles and heated to
    boiling. Foaming may occur if fresh tomato pulp is used, but can be
    corrected with anti-foaming compounds or compressed air. Precise amounts
    of sweeteners, vinegar, salt, spices, and flavorings are added to the
    tomato pulp. Most spices are added early in the cooking process. To
    avoid excessive evaporation, volatile spice oils and vinegar must be
    mixed in later. Onions and garlic can be mixed in with the spices,
    placed in a separate bag, or chopped and added to the pulp. Salt and
    sugar may be added at any stage of cooking though it is better to add
    sugar later to prevent burning. The mixture cooks for 30-45 minutes and
    is circulated by rotating blades installed in the cookers. The
    temperature must be carefully regulated to insure absorption of the
    ingredients without overcooking, which creates a flat body.


  • 5 Once the cooking is complete, the ketchup mixture passes through a
    finishing machine. Finishers remove excess fiber and particles through
    screens, creating a smoother consistency. The ketchup passes to a
    holding tank before further processing.
  • 6 The ketchup may be milled at higher temperatures and pressures to
    achieve a smoother consistency.

Removing air

  • 7 The ketchup must be de-aerated to prevent discoloration and growth of
    bacteria. Excess air might also create unattractive air pockets and
    impede the closure process.


  • 8 To prevent contamination, the ketchup passes from the receiving tanks
    to the filling machines at a temperature not lower than 190°F
    (88°C). The containers are filled with the ketchup and immediately
    sealed to retain the freshness of the product. Ketchup containers come
    in various sizes and shapes, including 14-oz. bottles, No. 10 cans,
    pouch packs, room-service sizes, and single-serve packets.


  • 9 The containers must be cooled to prevent flavor loss through stack
    burning, which occurs when ketchup stays at high temperatures after
    cooking is complete. Containers of ketchup may be cooled in cold air or
    cold water.

Labeling and packing

  • 10 Finally, the ketchup containers are labeled and coded with product
    information, including ingredients, date and location of manufacture,
    and shelf-life. The bottled ketchup may be inspected again before
    shipping. The entire process of ketchup manufacturing generally takes
    two to three hours.

Quality Control

Some of the commonly used preservatives during the 19th century included
benzoate of soda, borax salicylic acid, benzoic, and formaldehyde, all of
which could pose health risks when consumed in large quantities. A series
of Pure Food Laws beginning in 1906 banned the use of the harmful

In 1940, the U.S. government established a “Standard of
Identity” for ketchup as tomato-based. Thus consumers could tell
from the label that the product was made of tomatoes, since ketchup could
also be made from other foods, including bananas, beets, or mangoes.

The quality of ketchup is insured by taking samples of the product during
various stages of production. Tomato growers must comply with regulations
set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug
Administration regarding the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Increasing
concern in the closing decades of the 20th century led to increased use of
natural fertilizers and pesticides. Inspection is necessary of the
tomatoes, ingredients, and of all processing equipment which comes into
contact with the product.

Oxidation of ketchup can darken the color of ketchup, but de-aeration of
the sauce during manufacture can prevent this problem. However, once the
containers are opened, oxidation may still occur. Although the acidity of
ketchup preserves the sauce, manufacturers recommend that once containers
are opened they should be refrigerated to prevent deterioration of the
ketchup color, flavor, and quality.

To maintain consistency in color and flavor, manufacturers determine the
concentration of tomato solids in the mixture, since about one-third of
the ketchup’s acidity and sugar content depends on the amount of
solids. The ketchup Grades A through C must conform to specific
concentrations. The quality of the ketchup can be measured by its physical
consistency, or body, which refers to the ability of the ketchup to retain
its liquid in suspension. The slower the rate, the higher the grade of the
ketchup. For instance, the Bostwick Consistometer, recommended by the
USDA, set Grades A and B at flow rates at less than 4 inches (10 cm) in 30
seconds at 68°F (20°C).

The Future

Ketchup manufacturers continue to improve the quality of ketchup by
developing tomato strains that are superior in color, flavor, and
firmness. Tomato hybrids are also engineered to improve resistance to
disease and rot, thus decreasing the reliance on chemical pesticides.

In the 1990s, in response to consumer demand for more healthful foods,
ketchup manufacturers created low-calorie, low-salt ketchup alternatives.
The increasing popularity of Spanish salsas and marinades also influenced
manufacturers to develop salsa-style ketchups which were lower in sugar
content. Packaging technology continues to

improve as consumers demand safer, more convenient, and recyclable

Where To Learn More


Gould, Wilbur A.

Tomato Production, Processing, and Quality Evaluation,

2nd ed. AVI Publishing Company, Inc., 1983.


McDermott, Michael J. “Salsamania! Mexican Sauce

Food & Beverage Marketing,

August 1993, p. 8.

Strenk, Thomas. “Ketchup.”

Restaurant Business Magazine.

May 20, 1993, p. 99.

Wagner, Jim. “Building the Best New Products in America.”

Food Processing,

November 1993, p. 16.


All About Heinz Ketchup.

H.J. Heinz Co., 1991. P.O. Box 57, Pittsburg, PA, 15230-0057.

Source Article

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