The Ketchup Revolution, Postponed

Five years ago, Malcolm Gladwell pronounced ketchup ripe for the kind of diversity revolution that had already shattered the staid monotony of the spaghetti sauce and mustard markets. Now The Smart Set wonders why we’re still waiting for ketchup to storm the barricades. Were we too busy cooking up exotic derivatives during the boom years? Has the Great Recession, or government regulation, stifled vital condiment innovation? Maybe it’s something immutable in ketchup itself. All those natural mellowing agents, perhaps. [%comments]

Eric M. Jones

If you wanted some improvement in ketchup, you would use salsa. Ketchup is like mustard; some variety, but not much. Heinz did market colored ketchup in green, purple, pink, orange, teal, and even blue (no mustard colors here!)....too weird. If tomato ketchup changed much, perhaps it would be called something else?


Eric (#!) - Ketchup can be made out of other fruits. I think that's the revolution we're talking about here. Perhaps I'm wrong. I do know that there are banana and apple ketchups available in the Philippines.

Personally, I think ketchup is disgustingly sweet. Any context in which most people would use ketchup would find me much more likely to use a vinegar-based hot sauce or just plain malt vinegar (and perhaps some Old Bay as well).


I think the likely variations on Ketchup are already well represented by the various salsas (chunky style) BBQ sauces (spicy and or sweet versions) and steak sauces (A1, Hines 57, and so on).

karen lyons kalmenson

a change in ketchup i would not relish
on perfection do not embellish
it is what it is supposed to be
to some food, just good red company

C G Yiann

I would guess that there is little call for any deviation from the most traditional of All-American condiments.

Salsa has long been more popular than ketchup in the US market, and there is no lack of diversity there.


Agreed that "If tomato ketchup changed much, perhaps it would be called something else." It's like mayonnaise - it if changes too much, it becomes Miracle Whip. Places that try to offer "really expensive ketchups... all the fanciest 'Dijon' ketchups," so to speak, are simply begging to be featured in a Miller Lite ad.

James V

I've moved away from ketchup almost completely. It's just for dressing fries or onion rings.

For everything else that I would consider putting ketchup on (and a few things more to boot) I use sriracha chili sauce with the rooster on the bottle.

Spicy, garlicky, pure delicious.

Bryan Rosander

I have tried a curry flavored ketchup that was very good.

If people really want flavor variety in this area, they have plenty of choice already in barbecue sauce, steak sauce, salad dressing, mustard, salsa, chili, and so on. Ketchup isn't really used on lunch meat sandwiches where the competition is more focused. Instead, it is used on burgers, fries, and other foods where competition is already much more diverse.

Michael F. Martin

I like the spicy ketchup that they sell in India. I add sriracha to my heinz sometimes. Not sure if that's "revoultionary," but there it is.


For many of us, there is only one acceptable ketchup...HEINZ.

EM Jones (#1), you are wrong...there are many varieties of mustard.

Norm (#3), you are correct sir: there are varieties, but they are not "ketchup" and calling them such would only create confusion.


There doesn't seem to be much room to branch out on ketchup, but there is some. I've been using Ketchapeno and Ketchipotle on fries, burgers, etc. for several years now. A little kick makes the ketchup much better!

Rob Goodspeed

I think Gladwell's article explains why gourmet ketchup is a fool's errand: the current stuff is just a perfectly balanced combination of flavors.

Maybe I missed something?


Gladwell didn't say it was ripe for development. His point was that the lack of ketchup diversity is related to it's perfect balance and universal appeal. That it's continued popularity, despite attempts to create ketchup variations, makes it special.

Christopher BUtler

I think ranch dressing is superior in any case where ketchup would be used.


I'd guess that because it takes so long to get through a bottle of ketchup, the risk for buying a poor flavor is high.

Spaghetti sauce is used up in three or four servings.

The only real mustard flavors are honey mustard (which really is its own condiment), dijon (which is well-established), and yellow.

I would guess that there's room for a premium ketchup similar to dijon mustard (if there aren't any already), but the risk of a "honey ketchup" or "vodka ketchup" being bad is too great for a family to bet on it.


@ karen (#4) -- super sonnet.

IMHO, it comes down for me to brand -- like google vs. "search engines", it's Heinz vs. all other red stuff, inclusive of chutneys and hunts and malcom's melange.

Fritz Mills

They used to sell a spicy ketchup which, for me, added the one taste sensation not addressed in the New Yorker article. But if it's still available, it isn't sold at the supermarket where I shop. Maybe you just can't improve on Heinz when it comes to essential ketchup (which is not to say Heinz ketchup is superior to salsas and other sauces in every situation - but it is clearly better than any other ketchup).


Ever been to an Evo's? They have flavored ketchup. Some of it is pretty good.

Marc Jones

Gladwell did not predict that ketchup would undergo a diversity revolution. In fact, he and his subject Dr. Moscowitz predicted the opposite: that Heinz ketchup was fairly indomitable based on taste science factors and some culture factors. The ketchup part of the Gladwell's article was a counterpoint to the mustard/spaghetti sauce part.

Eric M. Jones

@2- Grant

Yes, ketchup can be and was made from other fruits and veggies, but "Tomato Ketchup" has become "Ketchup". I presumed only condiment experts read this website, so it went without I went without saying it.

I suspect as people age, they lose their taste for ketchup and tend to prefer other condiments.