Although today's ketchup certainly isn't the Worcestershire sauce-like ke-tchup of yesteryear, that doesn't mean the recipe is the same around the globe. Many American companies, including ketchup manufacturers, have international subsidiaries that produce their products overseas. Sometimes these subsidiaries tinker with a product's recipe to fit local taste buds. Ketchup fans in England and Venezuela, for example, are sold a sweeter ketchup than Americans, who favor a spicier tang. And Filipinos love their sweet banana ketchup, which doesn't taste like bananas.
While Americans devour tomato ketchup, they're not its No. 1 fans. That would be the Canadians and Finns. With tastes varying around the globe, it's also not too surprising that people use ketchup in different ways. People in Sweden squeeze it over pasta, for example. Thais use it as a dip for potato chips. And Eastern Europeans favor it on pizza [source: Scoble].
In some countries — quelle horreur! — ketchup isn't even in people's stream of consciousness. The biggest condiment in China, for instance, is fermented bean curd. Residents of Belize go crazy for habanero pepper sauce, while Serbians opt for ajvar, a smoky red pepper-and-eggplant relish. Even in the U.K., where ketchup is popular, brown sauce wins out. A staple in most British homes, it's made with malt vinegar, molasses and dates, and used on top of just about everything [source: Parmar].
Of course, as immigration changes the ethnic mix of a country, its taste buds change as well. In the U.S., Latino immigrants helped push salsa to the top of the condiment rankings in the 1990s, leaving ketchup behind [source: Heitz-Wald]. And thanks to both Latino and Asian immigrants, hot sauce — while still far below ketchup in popularity— is on the rise. Between 2000 and 2013, hot sauce sales soared 150 percent — more than the sales of barbecue sauce, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise combined [source: Ferdman and King].
Speaking of mayo, mayonnaise is actually the chief condiment in the U.S. In 2013, the mayo market was worth $2 billion versus $800 million for ketchup [source: Ferdman and King]. (Salsa is now the second-most popular condiment). However, both ketchup and mayonnaise had flat or declining growth in 2016, while chili sauces like sriracha experienced strong growth. Millennial consumers prefer spicier and more flavorful products than their parents did [source: Euromonitor]. This explains why you can buy sriracha ketchup in the grocery stories.
Perhaps ketchup is headed the way of ke-tchup. If so, it's been one spicy-sweet ride.
Author's Note: How Ketchup Works
My earliest memories of ketchup involve pouring copious amounts onto my scrambled eggs to "enhance" their flavor. (What was I thinking?!) I still love the stuff — what proud American doesn't? — but I use it sparingly and often prefer mustard, salsa or my new favorite, Sriracha mayo.
More Great Links
- Adams, Lucas. "Ketchup Physics 101." Cook's Science. Oct. 3, 2016. (May 4, 2017) http://www.cooksscience.com/articles/story/ketchup-physics-101/++++++
- Bratskeir, Kate. "A Historical Timeline Of Ketchup And French Fries, And How The Pair Grew To Fall In Love." Huffington Post. Nov. 13, 2014. (May 1, 2017) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/11/ketchup-french-fries-history-love-you-guys_n_6133112.html
- Carr, Heather. "Changing Tastes – Heinz and Hunt's Ketchups Revamp Their Formulas." Eat Drink Better. May 19, 2010. (May 9, 2017) https://eatdrinkbetter.com/2010/05/19/changing-tastes-heinz-and-hunts-ketchups-revamp-their-formulas/
- Chandler, David. "Kripa Varanasi: Innovating at interfaces." Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jan. 19, 2017. (May 1, 2017) http://news.mit.edu/2017/faculty-profile-kripa-varanasi-0119
- Chesler, Rachel. "10 Sugar-Containing Foods You Didn't Know Had Sugar." SF Gate. (May 1, 2017) http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/10-sugarcontaining-foods-didnt-sugar-9710.html
- Clark, Melissa. "Tomato Ketchup." The New York Times. (May 1, 2017) https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/12578-tomato-ketchup
- Diffen. "Catsup vs. Ketchup." (May 1, 2017) http://www.diffen.com/difference/Catsup_vs_Ketchup
- Ferdman, Roberto and Ritchie King. "The American hot sauce craze in one mouth-watering chart." Quartz. Jan. 28, 2014. (May 12, 2017) https://qz.com/171500/the-american-hot-sauce-craze-in-one-mouth-watering-chart/
- Ferdman, Roberto and Ritchie King. "Ketchup isn't the king of American condiments. Mayonnaise is." Quartz. Jan. 29, 2014. (May 12, 2017) https://qz.com/172019/ketchup-isnt-the-king-of-american-condiments-mayonnaise-is/
- Foat, Lindsey. "Two students solve the case of the watery ketchup by designing a new cap." Public Broadcasting Service. May 12, 2014. (May 1, 2017) http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/students-solve-old-problem-new-ketchup-cap/
- Gandhi, Lakshmi. "Ketchup: The All-American Condiment That Comes From Asia." National Public Radio. Dec. 3, 2013. (May 1, 2017) http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/12/02/248195661/ketchup-the-all-american-condiment-that-comes-from-asia
- Greve, Frank. "Ketchup is better with upside-down, bigger bottle." McClatchy DC Bureau. June 28, 2007. (May 10, 2017) http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article24465613.html
- Harris, Aisha. "Is There a Difference Between Ketchup and Catsup?" Slate. April 22, 2013. (May 1, 2017) http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/04/22/ketchup_vs_catsup_differences_none_at_all_video.html
- Heinz Ketchup. (May 1, 2017) http://www.heinzketchup.com/Products
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- Higginbotham, Stacey. "What can ketchup consumption teach us about the economics of data?" Fortune. April 22, 2015. (May 1, 2017) http://fortune.com/2015/04/22/ketchup-consumption-data-economics/
- Jackson, Lisa. "The Crunchy History of Ketchup Chips." Food Network. Jan. 30, 2017. (May 1, 2017) http://www.foodnetwork.ca/shows/great-canadian-cookbook/blog/the-crunchy-history-of-ketchup-chips/
- Lewis, Kim. "10 Wild And Crazy Facts About Ketchup." Listverse. July 29, 2014. (May 1, 2017) http://listverse.com/2014/07/29/10-wild-and-crazy-facts-about-ketchup/
- Parmar, Parmjit. "Top 14 Condiments From Around the World." Food Network. Oct. 20, 2014. (May 1, 2017) http://www.foodnetwork.ca/fun-with-food/photos/top-14-condiments-from-around-the-world/#!a2ec26d2f3982f62e941b2b32d0e85af
- Poon, Linda. "What's The Secret To Pouring Ketchup? Know Your Physics." National Public Radio. April 29, 2014. (May 1, 2017) http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/04/29/306911004/whats-the-secret-to-pouring-ketchup-know-your-physics
- Scoble, Devon. "11 things you didn't know about ketchup." The Loop. (May 12, 2017) http://www.theloop.ca/11-things-you-didnt-know-about-ketchup/
- Statista. "U.S. population: Do you use catsup / ketchup?" (May 1, 2017) https://www.statista.com/statistics/278055/us-households-usage-of-catsup–ketchup-2013/
- Statista. "U.S. population: Which brands of catsup / ketchup do you use most often?" (May 5, 2017) https://www.statista.com/statistics/278061/us-households-most-used-brands-of-catsup–ketchup/
- United States Department of Agriculture. "Potatoes and tomatoes are the most commonly consumed vegetables." Oct. 11, 2016. (May 1, 2017) https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/chart-gallery/gallery/chart-detail/?chartId=58340
- United States Department of Agriculture. "Tomatoes." Oct. 19, 2016. (May 1, 2017) https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/vegetables-pulses/tomatoes.aspx
- Visually. "Hamburgers." (May 5, 2017) http://visual.ly/hamburgers-economics-americas-favorite-food
- Wanderlust and Lipstick. "Why Ketchup Tastes Different Around The World." Sept. 20, 2011. (May 12, 2017) http://wanderlustandlipstick.com/blogs/wanderfood/2011/09/20/wanderfood-wednesday-why-ketchup-tastes-different-around-the-world/