Celebrate Food Did You Know?

Catch Up on Ketchup! – A Brief Timeline in Celebration of National Ketchup Day

Learn about this versatile condiment and drop some knowledge on a friend today when they reach for the ketchup bottle!

By Catherina Silva

Whether in your home, at a picnic, or at various eateries and food establishments, ketchup can be found without fail. This condiment is such a staple in American cuisine that a bottle of this sauce sits on nearly 97% of our country’s tables. However, the origin of this sweet tomato sauce is far from American. The word “ketchup” comes from the Hokkien Chinese word, “kê-tsiap”, which is a sauce that calls for fermented fish; a far cry from the ketchup we know today right? This sauce made its way to present-day Malaysia and Singapore where it was then discovered by English explorers. When they settled in America the recipe came with them, and it gradually morphed into the tomato ketchup we love and enjoy today. Here is a timeline of ketchup’s diverse and noteworthy history:

500 BC – first tomato cultivation in Mexico

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544 AD – China’s first recipe is created containing fish stomach, intestine, and bladder


1700 – British sailors bring the Malaysian version back to their homeland


1778 – ketchup makers create their own versions containing ingredients such as walnuts, mushrooms, and oysters

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1812 – the first recipe of tomato ketchup is invented by a scientist and horticulturalist, James Mease; whose recipe calls for tomato pulp, brandy, and spices


1830s – a medical journal claims that tomatoes could aide digestive problems, and it is soon marketed as a medicine

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Must have been a delicious medicine right? A close competitor to Flintstone Gummies if it was still around today.

1850 – factory-produced ketchups at this time contain harmful contaminants such as benzoic acid and salicyclic acid, and it is viewed as a poison


1876 – Henry J. Heinz creates tomato ketchup free of harmful contaminants by using high levels of vinegar in the preservation process

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1888 – Hunt’s, a company that concentrated on canning and selling our state’s fruits and vegetables due to the booming agricultural industry, is founded in Sebastopol, California


1906 – The Pure Food and Drug Act is put in motion forcing food manufacturers to replace dangerous preservatives with vinegar instead


1968 – ketchup packets are created

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1970 – high-fructose corn syrup is added as a sweetener to popular ketchups


1980 – tomato ketchup is categorized by the U.S. government as a vegetable so that it seems children are getting their daily-recommended value of veggies in their diets

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Presently, we view tomato as a fruit so wouldn’t ketchup be a smoothie? These are the questions.

2000-2006 – Heinz introduces this crazy ketchup in green, purple, pink, orange, teal, and blue between 2000-2003, but then discontinued the product in 2006

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Aww, nostalgia.

2015 – Heinz releases Sriracha Ketchup in America and hipsters everywhere rejoice!

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Balsamic Vinegar, Hot & Spicy, and Jalapeño ketchups were introduced as well.

So, did you catch up? If you feel a part of ketchup history should be added to this timeline leave it in the comments below.


A Historical Timeline Of Ketchup And French Fries, And How The Pair Grew To Fall In Love


The Plate – National Geographic

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