The Canadian catsup caper has concluded.
After a Liberal MPP threatened to lead a boycott against Loblaws for delisting Ontario-made French’s ketchup, the grocery giant relented.
“We’ve heard our Loblaws customers. We will re-stock French’s ketchup and hope that the enthusiasm we are seeing in the media and on social media translates into sales of the product,” said Kevin Groh, the company’s vice-president of corporate affairs and communication.
“We will work with French’s to make sure we are in-stock as soon as possible,” Groh said Tuesday.
The company’s change of heart occurred hours after MPP Mike Colle warned he was “more than prepared to lead a boycott of Loblaws until we get an explanation of your decision or a reversal of this refusal to stock French’s ketchup in your stores.”
In his letter, the Eglinton-Lawrence MPP urged Loblaws president Galen Weston to put the condiment, which is made in Leamington with Ontario tomatoes, back on Loblaws’ shelves.
“I think your company has made a huge miscalculation and underestimated the value that we put on supporting local foods and local jobs,” he writes.
Colle, a former cabinet minister and long-time activist MPP, said in an interview that he was baffled by the grocer’s “dumb move.”
“They’ve really made a mistake here. This doesn’t sound like a good business decision,” he said.
“I just wonder what the hell they’re thinking. It’s really struck a chord with people. The reaction is overwhelming here.”
On Monday, the company, which has sold French’s ketchup for the past two years, said it was not a popular item with consumers.
The supermarket giant’s move was a difficult one for U.S.-based French’s to swallow.
Its ketchup uses Leamington tomatoes processed at the former H.J. Heinz Co. plant that the American multinational left in 2014 as it moved operations stateside throwing 740 workers on the street.
Heinz was the biggest employer in the southwestern Ontario town and had been a Leamington fixture since 1909.
Mindful of French’s commitment to the community and the province, NDP MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex) has led the charge to ensure it is the only ketchup served at Queen’s Park.
Natyshak started an online petition for the cause because “the promotion of French’s ketchup would greatly support local tomato producers, local workers and communities across Essex County.”
There have been other grass-roots crusaders for the product on social media.
Orillia’s Brian Fernandez launched a Facebook campaign to promote the Ontario condiment a few weeks back that has gone viral and led to a sales bonanza for French’s at many grocery stores.
On Monday, Longo’s, a small Loblaws competitor, tweeted its support for Leamington.
“You asked, we listened — get your Ontario-made #FrenchsKetchup at Longo’s. Enjoy! Support @FoodlandOnt,” the firm said on Twitter.