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Heinz is closing its plant in Leamington

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I was sorry to see this news. I've always had a soft spot for Leamington and its residents - both permanent and temporary. If I'm heading that way on the 401, I sometimes make a detour for some Mexican food in town.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor...

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  1. Time was, lots of young Québécois were among the migrant workers there. This is dreadful - that is tomato town.

    1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkZ62X...

      - khao san road

      1. I wonder if it means we will be stuck with US made Heinz ketchup that's full of high fructose corn syrup.

        19 Replies
        1. re: mrsleny

          Yes, mrsleny.

          Look for possible changes as well in A1 Sauce, Diana Sauce, HP Sauce, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, Catelli, and saddest of all - baked beans. All Heinz products from Leamington.

          Renée's sauces are also made by Heinz but they may possibly be out of their St. Mary's plant which is being retained.

          http://www.heinz.ca/other_brands.asp

          Heinz is also into private labels for the major chains.

          1. re: DockPotato

            Well there's no longer a reason to buy Heinz ketchup. The only other brand I can see sticking with is L&P, which I buy every 3 years or so....

            1. re: DockPotato

              So this means no more Heinz ketchup or baked beans made in Canada?? Period?? Is this accurate?

              If so, maybe we should stock up now?

              1. re: magic

                Period. Accurate. As of June 2014, Magic.

                The ketchup I will miss on the very few times I have a hot dog.

                The beans and tomato juice, along with their A1, HP and Worcestershire Sauces are another matter.

                1. re: DockPotato

                  Jeez.

                  Looks like I better stock up.

                  How many years do these products last on shelves? Guesses, anyone?

                  1. re: magic

                    For reasons unknown to me, Canadians prefer sweeter ketchup than Americans, and the Heinz plant there modified their formula accordingly.

                  2. re: DockPotato

                    Will this affect their Chili Sauce?

                    I imagine it would. Would it disappear? Is it produced in the US?

                    1. re: DockPotato

                      Holy cow... My Worcestershire sauce! I hate the US version. Ugh I guess I'll be trying the PC version and see how it is.

                      Thank you for the breads up. I find the US ingredients losing on the bottles really scary. They may not be more sweeter but they're far more artificial

                  3. re: DockPotato

                    Thanks for the info DockPotato! This is sad news.

                    It's time to find new ketchup source ... any recommendations?

                    1. re: mrsleny

                      I don't have a clue either. I'm on the same Heinz boat as the rest of you. Whenever I visit Leamington I usually stock up by the case at the Heinz employee outlet through family.

                      I know that there are are several independent processors in Essex Kent - some even do contract for Heinz. But I don't know what they produce at all. Stokely, Aylmer and Hunts are long ago absorbed and God knows where their product is from now.

                      I know that I'll be looking at labels for "Made in Canada" or "Made in USA".

                      1. re: DockPotato

                        I like E D Smith, though it's a bit hard to find in the GTA.

                    2. re: DockPotato

                      I just came back from grocery shopping and I checked the Worcester sauce. They're made in England and not Canada. Maybe I don't need to stock up on that one.

                      1. re: Nevy

                        Interesting. Mine is product of U.S.A. which doesn't mean anything since it came from the employee store. I tend not to use much of that.

                        However I also checked my HP Sauce and it is made in Canada.

                        1. re: Nevy

                          The larger bottles are made in England, and shipped here. The small bottles are packaged in Leamington. It comes in as barrels of 4x concentrate from England and is diluted and bottled

                          1. re: idave321

                            Ah... so as long as I buy the big bottles, I'm ok and not having the horrible US ingredient list.

                            Thanks

                            1. re: idave321

                              You obviously know what's what idave321.

                              I take it you're referring to the Worcestershire Sauce. What about the HP? Is that made here or done from concentrate as well?

                              1. re: DockPotato

                                HP is made is Leamington, from scratch ... it's one of the more complex products to cook, many spices and flavourings

                        2. re: mrsleny

                          Until Heinz/Mr.Buffet shuts down the US production. I would think Heinz will outsource its ketchup production from the US as soon as it is in their economic interest.

                          1. re: prima

                            Tomato harvest lasts for a only few weeks in late summer/early fall. Some is used immediately in various product recipes but the rest is reduced to paste which is stored in large vats for use throughout the year until the following season. Beans, cereals and other dry goods can last the year as is.

                            There is a year's supply of ingredients to carry them through to their next season and I expect that the bulk of that will be processed here in Canada.

                            After that - well it's anyone's guess.

                        3. Thanks to new owner Warren Buffet that's a loss of 1/2 of Ontario's annual tomato market. Maybe now Ontario legalizes "grass" so the Essex county farmers have a high demand replacement crop and the Liberals get a new tax source.

                          Have you comparison tasted Hunts or PC ketchups lately? To me both have a superior tomato flavour.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: iamafoodie

                            Oh I'm sure they're great products, but I grew up with Heinz on my table, so it looks like if I want to avoid that garbage put in their US ketchup, I gotta stock up on Heinz products.

                            Terrible news for those who lost their jobs and the tomato industry in Ontario. Probably welcome news for manufacturers of farm equipment for non-tomato agriculture.

                            1. re: magic

                              I hope some more greenhouse operations set up shop in Leamington instead, so we can source more Cdn-grown produce instead of relying on imports for close to 9 months of the year.

                              1. re: prima

                                I don't know if you're familiar with the area, prima, but the amount of acreage under glass is mind boggling.

                                The problem hot houses face is water. Because of the requirements of hydroponics, operations must draw from the municipal supply which is at its limit. They can't use groundwater because of high iron content and other naturally occurring minerals such as sulphur.

                                1. re: DockPotato

                                  I haven't been recently, but I seek out Leamington hot house tomatoes and cukes over Mexican and American hot house tomatoes throughout the year. It would be great if a fresh herb business could operate from Leamington. Seems ridiculous (but cheap, I guess) to import fresh herbs from South America, which is where most of Loblaw's packaged fresh herbs seem to originate.

                                  Wasn't aware of the water issues. Thanks for the info. ;-)

                            2. re: iamafoodie

                              I am not saying this because I am a big fan of Warren Buffett, but because I know how he operates (and have even met the man). The closing of the plant is not 'thanks to Warren Buffet'. He maintains a very strict hands off policy with the companies he buys except for getting involved in the hiring and firing of the CEO (more hiring than firing). He invests in management, not in meddling in their operations or strategy. He doesn't even sit on the boards of the companies he invests in.

                              1. re: Flexitarian

                                Buffet is only supplying some of the capital for the buy out. The company will be run by a Brazilian food conglomerate that has already fired all the Heinz top management. The future of the company is very uncertain.

                                1. re: Flexitarian

                                  This is true, Buffet is hands off, the decision to end Canadian production came from 3G Capital. Those calling for a boycott of Buffet's brands should instead focus on 3G Capital

                              2. It's a sad, sad day in SW-Ontario.

                                1. I had no idea ketchup/L&P tasted different in US/Canada!! This makes me sad even though I've never noticed a difference yet...why did you have to tell me?!

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: szw

                                    That's because there isn't any perceptible difference. People who claim there is are imagining it. In any event, Heinz is a US company, so the US version is the real thing. If you want sugar, you can always add it. Companies only add sugar to their standard products to appeal to children.

                                    1. re: evansl

                                      evansl, you seem to have missed the point here. People don't want to add sugar for more sweetness; they want the product to be made with sugar rather than with the disgusting high-fructose corn syrup that's used in the U.S.-made product.

                                      1. re: evansl

                                        The Canadian formula is probably closer to the original, since there was no HFCS when Heinz started. The Canadian version is our "real thing". Whether or not the taste difference is perceptible, well we would need blind taste tests, etc, for that. Your opinion there is no more or less valid than anyone else's.
                                        Also, ketchup has always been a preserve containing sugar. Adding sugar to tomato sauce, pasta etc is definitely an annoying trend, but it's not like someone went and screwed up ketchup. It was always sugary.

                                        1. re: julesrules

                                          Sweet is not the same as sugary. Good ketchup is not sugary. As far as the notion that fructose is disgusting, that's plain bizarre. It's just another sweetener. Anyone who can tell the difference between fructose and sugar when they are in a high acid tomato base are going to have to prove it before i'd believe it.

                                    2. I just took a look at my bottle of Heinz ORGANIC ketchup: made in Canada, and the sweetener is sugar. Since I highly doubt that Heinz would try to source organic corn syrup (very expensive, more so than organic cane sugar) in their organic ketchup produced in the U.S., the solution to everyone's woes would seem to be to switch to Heinz organic ketchup.

                                      And just a heads up: the "sugar" in their regular Canadian-made ketchup is likely derived from sugar beets, which are undoubtedly GMO.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Tatai

                                        " And just a heads up: the "sugar" in their regular Canadian-made ketchup is likely derived from sugar beets, which are undoubtedly GMO. "

                                        Now that is a bit of a stretch. Sugar beets disappeared in Ontario when the processing plant in Chatham-Kent was sent to Cuba in the mid 20th century.

                                        Rogers-Lantic still processes sugar beets from Alberta, just 400 farms under contract. The bulk of their sugar is labelled cane, processed in Canada from foreign sources.

                                        1. re: jayt90

                                          Heinz sugar in Canada is sourced from Redpath in Toronto ( excepting the organic). Perhaps someone could chime in as to the origin of Redpath's sugar ..

                                          1. re: idave321

                                            Redpath claims to use raw sugar from cane, no mention of beets in its website.
                                            The parent company ASR says the same thing, but also has organic cane farms in Florida. http://www.asr-group.com/our-capabili...

                                          2. re: jayt90

                                            Why such a stretch? In the U.S.,

                                            "The total amount of refined sugar (beet + cane) produced in 2011 was nearly 8.3 million tons, compared to 7.8 million tons in 2010. Nearly 4.8 million tons, or 57 percent, of the refined sugar produced that year was beet sugar. Each harvested acre of sugarbeets was the source of nearly 4 tons of refined sugar."

                                            These figures are from two years ago. The percentage of beet sugar is likely higher now. The fact that Heinz has been producing their ketchup in Canada has nothing to do with where they've been sourcing their "sugar." If, as idave321 claims, they've been sourcing it from Redpath, then, yes, it's good old cane sugar.

                                        2. Sadly for me Heinz ketchup could be made in a North Korean labour camp and I'd probably still buy it. Nothing tastes the same.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: childofthestorm

                                            I'm also a Heinz fan, but since the American version tastes different, I think it's worth shopping around for something new. I like the PC ketchup, but who knows, it might have been made in that plant too. Anybody know?
                                            It's too bad that with all the emphasis on local stuff, companies don't take advantage and try advertising/building on the whole Made in Canada, Canadian farmers, local tomatoes thing. I felt the same when the peach cannery closed in Niagara a few years ago (ok possibly I am misremembering the situation, and I don't eat canned peaches anyway). It just seems out of touch.

                                            1. re: julesrules

                                              I don't know who makes PC ketchup, but I can say with certainty that it is not made by Heinz. The Leamington plant makes many generic products, for example the PC Organic baby food and Selection brand canned spaghetti and ravioli.
                                              To my knowledge, Heinz has never made ketchup for a generic label.

                                          2. Any chance some of the production will be moved over to the St. Mary's plant? What do they do in St. Mary's now?

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: ylsf

                                              They would have to transport fresh tomatoes from Essex and Chatham-Kent which would be costly. They could bring in tomato paste from California, but I have heard that Ca. will be the main source for ketchup.
                                              Leamington has enough paste to produce until next June, then it is all over.

                                              1. re: jayt90

                                                Because of the closure, Leamington is being pushed to produce at full capacity on all lines in order to stockpile product in case of issues with the U.S plants now having to supply 34 million more people.
                                                Combined with the fact that this tomato season was poor, good quality but low volume, the paste tanks will be dry be late Feb. or early March.

                                                If you want the absolute best, the first three digits on the cap denote the Julian day of production, the fourth digit is the year.
                                                You want product that was made from August 24th to about Oct 5th. The tomatoes in that product were on the vine about 6 hrs before they they went in the bottle.

                                              2. re: ylsf

                                                They make salad dressing in St. Mary's, there are no facilities to make ketchup or anything now made in Leamington

                                                1. re: ylsf

                                                  They make many sauces. Things like Dairy Queen fudge sauce. If you buy a pancake breakfast at a fast food outlet, chances are the syrup is made there.A good chunk of the orders was McDonalds special sauce .. But they are now losing that as MCD is moving their business away from Heinz. With Leamington closing they will probably take on the glass lines, things like M&M sauces, Chili sauce, Diana's Marinades. English salad cream etc.

                                                  As for Ketchup, they could produce it, but not from fresh tomatoes, if they did, it would be from California paste.

                                                2. Making your own ketchup is rewarding and not that difficult. Natures bounty of fresh tomatoes, onions, fennel and an assortment of toasted spices and Brown sugar/molasses and you'll have a product that when canned, lasts all year and you'll have the knowledge of exactly what's in it. As a nod to my celiac friends, I eschew white vinegar for red wine vinegar, making my tasty ketchup gluten free.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: TorontoTuna

                                                    Aye, but making HP Sauce to accompany my bacon and eggs or to add to my hamburger is more challenging and cuts into my fishing hours.

                                                  2. Love the Heinz ketchup with Balsamic Vinegar!

                                                    8 Replies
                                                    1. re: Wiley1

                                                      Over the next few months it will be opportune to stock up on Canadian Heinz, or look for substitutes.

                                                      I am checking labels for lower sugar content around 4g per T, and real sugar in the ingredients.

                                                      PC ketchup has 25% more sugar than Heinz.

                                                      I'll be looking for Heinz organic, or hot and spicy, for the next few months, to remind me how good we had it.

                                                      1. re: jayt90

                                                        "...I am checking labels..."

                                                        You're not the only one.

                                                        I'm checking for country of origin. Generics can escape with, "prepared for xxx" showing an address in Mississauga or wherever except for items from the U.S. which origin is prominent on the label.

                                                        I trust the States - others not so much - well, very little. I wish to know where my food comes from.

                                                      2. re: Wiley1

                                                        More balsamic vinegar came in this week. There will be at least one more production run before the Leamington paste tanks are dry. Strange though, it goes in the 14oz plastic bottles which I thought were only sold in the U.S. If your getting it in the glass bottles, that is now made in Fremont.

                                                        1. re: idave321

                                                          Hmm, so what does this mean for Heinz ketchup lovers in Canada?

                                                          Also, thanks for the update :)

                                                          1. re: magic

                                                            Heinz could send tomato paste from the U.S. to St. Mary's, for manufacture of Canadian style ketchup with sugar.They can also make chili sauce, tomato juice and tomato soup from paste.
                                                            Or they could keep tomatoes out of St Mary's, and send U.S. ketchup here, with HFCS.

                                                            1. re: jayt90

                                                              Keep on dumbing it down for me :)

                                                              What will this mean for me?

                                                              1. re: magic

                                                                I can only guess at what they will do. But they probably realize the Canadian ketchup is better than the HFCS product, and hopefully theyl'll continue in St. Mary's Ont. plant.
                                                                I believe they are stuck with HFCS in the U.S. because of corn subsidies and a strong corn lobby. We can only hope that they don't send it here.
                                                                PC ketchup usues sugar, but is too sweet for me.
                                                                Anyone tried other sugar based ketchups?

                                                                1. re: jayt90

                                                                  Unico is based in Ruthven, Ontario - about 4 or 5 miles from Leamington. I hope that most of you know their product because it's a small, Ontario based company with an excellent product and strong shelf presence in the major chains.

                                                                  --------------------------------------------------------

                                                                  Jay's post prompted me to contact Unico today with:

                                                                  "We use a deal of Unico products, notably tomato products, especially your Passata with its low sodium.

                                                                  With the imminent closure of Heinz does Unico have any plans to produce ketchup in the future?

                                                                  My wish is to continue buying Canadian product."

                                                                  --------------------------------------------------------

                                                                  Very shortly after I received:

                                                                  "Hi xxx,

                                                                  With the closure of Heinz just occurring, there has been no talk about Unico producing Ketchup.

                                                                  Keep a look out in the future.

                                                                  Consumer Services"

                                                                  --------------------------------------------------------

                                                                  http://www.unico.ca/

                                                                  I may, or may not, have early, social, or even remote family connections, with the operators of Unico. I neither know, nor care, but I'd be very surprised if I didn't as I was raised in Leamington.

                                                                  I am schilling strongly here, but only for community.

                                                      3. Who Really Killed Heinz?
                                                        http://blogs.windsorstar.com/2013/12/...

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: prima

                                                          Prima, you cite no specifics on Bill 91. Please expand. The Windsor Star article offers no insight.

                                                          1. re: DockPotato

                                                            If the Ontario Liberals are pushing Bill 91 through Queens Park without clear definitions and terms, without doing due diligence (proper studies, etc) first, and the Bill could/would have unknown/undefined economic consequences for companies on top of our already high energy and labour costs, companies are going to fear for the worst, and some will leave for greener pastures.

                                                            I don't have any specifics to cite (and this is an opinion board, so I'm not going to be looking for citations beyond pasting an occasional link relating to the topic). I'm just a layperson who is annoyed that so many companies have been shutting down manufacturing in SW Ontario, while money has been wasted elsewhere in the province.

                                                            1. re: prima

                                                              Prima, I wasn't familiar with the bill and was just looking for details which I now have. Without your mention I would have missed it - better maybe I had.

                                                          2. re: prima

                                                            Bill 91, which will pass with the help of the government and one other party, is as ill informed as the Green Energy Act. We'll have the highest electricity rates and the cleanest garbage, as we get poorer.

                                                          3. I hope the producers in that area can form a cooperative to buy that plant, with maybe a major investor or two and lets get back to producing healthy foods from the vegetables we grow right here in Ontario and brand it so we all know where it is coming from.
                                                            The time is ripe for buy local and we don't need to major corporations to control it all. At least with a cooperative they can make sure the producer is getting a fair price.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: dejongacres

                                                              I have seen many people pushing this co-op idea. What people fail to realize is Heinz will never sell the plant intact.
                                                              Why would they sell a plant capable of making 100 million bottles of ketchup a year to a competitor? The lines will be removed, moved to Fremont and Muscatine and the plant will be sold as an empty husk.

                                                            2. I'm totally PO'd and depressed. Going fishing tomorrow.

                                                              1. Some hope for the Leamington plant! :)

                                                                http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor...

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: sasgirl

                                                                  This seems encouraging, but still slightly vague to me. If I'm reading this correctly this might restore about 30% of the workforce slated to lose their jobs, but what about the other 70% or so.

                                                                  Also, other than tomato juice what will the plant produce? Anything?

                                                                  What does this mean for ketchup, chili sauce, and other products?

                                                                  Thanks for posting this development sasgirl...

                                                                  1. re: sasgirl

                                                                    Here is another report:

                                                                    http://blogs.windsorstar.com/2014/02/...

                                                                    The deal had to be announced because now is the critical time for the growers. Hopefully they are now able to start setting up 2014 crops.