Photo: Food Navigator
Heinz has been associated with the number 57 since its inception over a century ago. The “57 varieties” promotion helped early Heinz’s appeal technique, and it still appears on their ketchup bottles today—playing an essential part in brand identity.
However, for the consumer’s information, this number is downright made up.
There were no 57 varieties when Pittsburgh entrepreneur H.J Heinz formulated the slogan in 1896, and not true today with hundreds of types of it. But it is an essential label for Heinz.
The number has been around for 126 years because of its buildup of Heinz as a sentimental and apparent American food brand—the condiment you put on your plain hot dog or a burger at a summer picnic.
H.J. Heinz, who a biographer once described as a “marketing genius,” sold bottled horseradish, pickles, pepper sauce, ketchup—launched by the company in 1987, spelled “catsup” and later changed to “ketchup” to make a different name for the product—and some 60 more food items in the early 1890s.
At the time, pickles were Heinz’s major success, and he was later called the “pickle king.”
Heinz saw an advertisement for “21 styles” of shoes when exploring New York City in 1896. He realized that it was memorable and believed linking a number to his brand would help gain traction from customers; thus, the slogan was born.
A lot of theories have circulated about the emergence of the number 57.
According to Ashleigh Gibson, brand director at Heinz, the condiment behemoth’s founder felt there was something “mystical, magical, and memorable” about the number 57, which was a combination of 5, his lucky number and 7, his wife’s lucky number.
When Heinz was computing the number of varieties his company sold in 1896, Heinz found that seven stood out to him, said Heinz’s secretary, who made a biography on him.
“Seven, seven—there are so many illustrations of the psychological influences of that figure and its alluring significance to people of all ages and races,” Heinz stated, as per the biography. “58 Varieties or 59 Varieties did not appeal at all to me as being equally strong.”
Within a week of seeing the shoe commercial, Heinz noticed that “57 varieties” were mentioned in newspapers and billboards.
“I myself did not realize how highly successful a slogan it was going to be,” said Heinz.