By David MacDonald N o one could have predicted that the question ‘Can you please pass the ketchup?’ would ever solicit the emotion that it does these days in North America. But the civil trade war that has erupted on both sides of the border during what has become a perpetual renegotiation of NAFTA has consumers everywhere choosing sides. But the 10 percent tariff on many goods coming into Canada is only the latest development in what’s been dubbed the ‘Ketchup Wars’ in The Great White North. If you’re reading Spotlight on Business from the home of the brave and the land of the free you might not be aware that it’s Heinz and not French’s that’s feeling the squeeze. In 2014, Kraft- Heinz picked their last Canadian tomatoes and shipped out of their Leamington, Ontario facility for a new factory in Iowa. That left a lot of workers in the “tomato capital of Canada” taking off their gardening gloves seem- ingly for the last time. That’s until French’s stepped in. Highbury Canco, a Leamington-based food-processor, bought the former Heinz plant, hired back who they could, and took French’s generous offer. Not surprisingly the cor- porate citizenry was celebrated across Canada leading to a surplus of cap-down ketchups on grocery store shelves from St. John’s to Victoria. According to MacLean’s Aaron Hutchins, all those superfluous cookouts resulted in an astonishing 6.7 percent rise in French’s shares in just two years. But it wasn’t enough.
And for that reason – and the fact that Kraft-Heinz still produces an array of other store shelf favourites in Canada by the hands of 2,000-plus Canadian workers – the vice president of corporate affairs for Kraft-Heinz Canada, Av Maharaj, believes the tariffs are unfair. “We are a good corporate citizen, and truly part of the Canadian fabric. We don’t think the tariffs imposed by Mr. Trump were particularly fair to Canada, and neither do we think that the reciprocal tariffs that were imposed are equally fair,” Maharaj told CBC New’s Sophia Harris. But that kind of fence-sitting isn’t sitting well with many Canadians in today’s political climate. Social media is ripe with anti-Heinz sentiment. Amanda @ShooguhLipz Tweeted on June 29 “Buy French’s ketchup! When Heinz pulled out of Leamington, ON, French’s stepped in and saved jobs.” But what Amanda and a lot of other people of the boycott Heinz train probably don’t know is that Highbury Canco, the same Leamington-based food-processor that made French’s gesture of good corporate citizenry possible also “negotiated deals with the company [Heinz] to produce many of its products for the Canadian market, including beans and tomato juice,” Harris reported.
It just goes to show that when ketchup is used as a weapon no one wins and things tend to geta little messy.
Heinz, despite the public backlash, remains Canada’s
SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE • JULY 2018
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