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The new line is scheduled to start running next summer and will create 30 new jobs, part of a $100-million capital investment in Kraft Heinz’s Canadian operations, Maharaj said. The Mount Royal line will produce 98 per cent of all the ketchup Heinz sells in Canada, save for a few specialty ketchup products that will continue to be made at the company’s facility in Fremont, Ohio, that currently handles ketchup production for the Canadian market.
The Mount Royal plant’s supply of tomatoes — roughly 50 million pounds a year — will be imported from the United States, at least in the short term. Maharaj said the company still has contract obligations with its U.S. tomato suppliers, but plans on switching to domestic producers after those contracts expire.
“The hope is … all the tomatoes that we use will be produced in Canada, but we’re still at the early stages,” he said.
There has been an unprecedented demand for Heinz ketchup across North America
Av Maharaj, chief administrative officer, Kraft Heinz Canada
But the provenance of its tomatoes were a major factor in the years-long public relations crisis for Heinz ketchup in Canada.
In 2014, Heinz shut down its century-old plant in Leamington, Ont., cut 740 jobs and switched its production to the U.S. At the time, the plant was reportedly processing half of the entire $52 million tomato crop in Ontario.
The closure inadvertently set off what this newspaper described as “the Condiment Wars,” with Heinz pitted against mustard giant French’s Food Co. LLC.
The Leamington plant found a life after Heinz ketchup, when Highbury Canco Corp. took it over and kept around a third of the staff. The plant continued to process some products for Heinz, though not ketchup. But French’s started sourcing its tomato paste from Highbury Canco, boasting that its new ketchup was made from Canadian tomatoes. Boycotting Heinz became something of a sensation in Canada, particularly after one shopper pledged to switch to French’s in a widely shared 2016 Facebook post.