Heinz Prevails in Israeli Ketchup Wars

Rival manufacturer Osem complained last year that Heinz didn’t meet the Israeli standard for ‘ketchup.’ Now the standard has been changed.

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Heinz Ketchup. In a January 2015 warning letter, Osem claims the 138-year-old Heinz brand doesn't comply with Israeli standards for ketchup.Credit: H.J. Heinz Co.

Israeli consumers can return to splashing Heinz ketchup over whatever they please, after the government changed the standard that had blocked the sale of the popular tomato-based condiment. The change in standard was made at the behest of import company Diplomat.

In early 2015, Israeli foodstuffs manufacturer Osem complained that whatever Heinz was making, it wasn’t ketchup by Israeli standards. Its lab tests, showed that the Heinz ketchup being sold in Israel had only about 20% tomato concentrate, while the Israeli regulation requires a 61% minimum, Osem said.

To put it another way, the Israeli standard requires that ketchup contain at least 10% tomato solids. Osem says tomato concentrate must make up at least 35% of the product to reach that level.

Osem has a monopoly on ketchup manufacturing in Israel.

The amendment to the Israeli ketchup standard was signed yesterday by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, and Health Minister Yakov Litzman. The grounds for the amendment, which changes the rules for tomato solids in ketchup, were that it will spur competition and that some of the original requirements kept imports out of the local market.

Traditionally, ketchup in Israel has been a highly concentrated business, with Osem holding a commanding 69% share of the 220-million shekel a year market and Heinz 27%. Others shared the remaining 4%.

Osem commented that the amendment will achieve nothing but damage to consumers because it allows ketchup made with a miserly amount of tomatoes to return to store shelves.

“It is difficult to understand how an amendment like that passed, when even consumer organizations understood the importance of the existing standard and opposed the new amendment,” the company stated, adding that it would continue to serve consumers and to make quality ketchup.