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The Inside Story: Why McDonald’s Ended Its Partnership with Heinz Ketchup

The real reason McDonald’s stopped serving Heinz ketchup

You go to your local McDonald’s on your lunch break and order a cheeseburger, some fries, and a Coke. Before you dig into the piping hot fries McDonald’s is so famous for, you rip open those little packets of ketchup and squeeze out the tangy tomato condiment to dip your fries in. As you sit there munching, you notice that the ketchup packets are labeled “Fancy Ketchup”. “Fancy Ketchup?” you wonder. “Does McDonald’s have its own private brand of ketchup or something?”
While the idea of Ronald McDonald owning a tomato farm to make his special McDonald’s brand of ketchup may be an amusing thought, the truth isn’t too far off. According to a self-described former McDonald’s manager on Quora, McDonald’s does make its own ketchup. The “fancy” part of “fancy ketchup” is nothing more than a term for when the ketchup meets USDA Grade A standards for tomato ketchup. But why go to all that trouble? Couldn’t McDonald’s just team up with Heinz and have an unlimited supply of Heinz’s famous ketchup? Truth be told, Heinz and McDonald’s were business partners until 2013, when McDonald’s dropped the condiment mogul to focus on making its own brand of ketchup.

Heinz CEO’s connection to Burger King

In 2013, McDonald’s announced the end of a 40-year partnership with Heinz Foods, and the reason was related to the company’s new CEO at the time. The CEO, Bernardo Hees, wasn’t a controversial figure or a ruthless businessman. But in Ronald McDonald’s eyes, he was no less an enemy. You see, before taking on the mantle of Heinz CEO, Hees worked as the worldwide CEO of Burger King. Hees was credited with evolving Burger King’s menu and getting rid of the infamous “King” mascot.
While you’d think a track record like Hees’ would be something to be excited about, McDonald’s didn’t seem to think so. Why would it want to partner with someone who worked to make its competitor better? In a statement about the split, McDonald’s cited “recent management changes at Heinz” as the primary reason for ending the partnership, and said that Heinz would work with McDonald’s to ensure an orderly transition. The decision to remove Heinz ketchup from the menu, McDonald’s assured customers, won’t affect the business, customers or “great-tasting food at McDonald’s.”

McDonald’s fries recipe change

Okay, so McDonald’s has changed its ketchup. No big deal, you might say – it’s not like the menu changed, right? If you’re an older McDonald’s fan with a particularly refined palate, you may have noticed that the chain’s famous golden fries taste a little different these days.
According to SFGate, McDonald’s fries were originally fried in beef tallow, a type of animal fat that becomes semi-solid at room temperature. The tallow was originally used when McDonald’s opened in the 1940s because it was the cheapest option their oil supplier could give them. Fortunately for the McDonald brothers (and fry lovers everywhere), the tallow had the added effect of giving the fries the signature golden-brown, rich flavor that would make them legendary. But if the tallow frying method was so popular, why stop?
In 1965, businessman Phil Sokolof suffered a heart attack. Sokolof’s subsequent health crisis inspired him to launch a health crusade, and he created ads targeting fast-food chains like McDonald’s for their unhealthy business practices. McDonald’s reportedly denied that Sokolof’s ads were the cause of its fry recipe change, but the fast-food industry still felt his influence. And in the 1990s, McDonald’s stopped using beef tallow to cook its French fries and started using vegetable oil instead. It may not be the same as beef tallow – and McDonald’s fries definitely taste different now – but, hey, at least they’re a little better for you.

Modernizing McDonald’s

Go out and walk into your local McDonald’s. Look around – you can smell the fries and the grease, can’t you? You can see the people lining up to get their food, like so many before them. But something is wrong. Where are Ronald McDonald and his friends? Where are the booths with the pastel pillows? Where are the old Nintendo game pavilions where you and your buddies played Mario Kart? Everything feels so sleek, so modern now. Wood-paneled walls, hanging plants, minimalist art, soft lighting – it feels more like a trendy cafe than the McDonald’s you remember.
McDonald’s has undergone a significant transformation in recent years to modernize its image and appeal to a new generation of consumers. This includes not only menu changes, such as introducing healthier options and accommodating dietary preferences, but also revamping the design and atmosphere of its restaurants. The goal is to create a more inviting and contemporary dining experience that reflects current trends and customer expectations.
Part of this modernization process involves reevaluating partnerships and making strategic decisions to align with the brand’s new direction. The decision to end its partnership with Heinz and develop its own brand of ketchup was one such move. By taking control of its ketchup production, McDonald’s was able to ensure consistency and quality while differentiating itself from the competition.
In addition to the ketchup change, McDonald’s also made adjustments to its famous French fries. The switch from beef tallow to vegetable oil was influenced by changing societal attitudes about health and nutrition. While the taste may have changed slightly, the switch allowed McDonald’s to adapt to changing consumer preferences and position itself as a more health-conscious fast-food option.
These changes are all part of McDonald’s ongoing efforts to stay relevant and maintain its position as a leader in the fast food industry. By embracing innovation, adapting to consumer demands and making strategic business decisions, McDonald’s continues to evolve and meet the ever-changing tastes and preferences of its customers.
So the next time you visit a McDonald’s and reach for that packet of ketchup, remember the journey it took to get there. From ending its longstanding partnership with Heinz to modernizing the brand, McDonald’s has made deliberate choices to shape its identity and deliver the best possible dining experience to its customers.


Why has McDonald’s stopped serving Heinz ketchup?

McDonald’s ended its partnership with Heinz due to management changes within the company, specifically the appointment of former Burger King CEO Bernardo Hees as CEO of Heinz.

Has McDonald’s developed its own ketchup?

Yes, McDonald’s makes its own ketchup that meets USDA Grade A standards for tomato ketchup. The “fancy” label simply indicates that it meets these quality standards.

What was the connection between the CEO of Heinz and Burger King?

Before becoming CEO of Heinz, Bernardo Hees was the worldwide CEO of Burger King. This connection to one of McDonald’s biggest competitors influenced McDonald’s decision to end its partnership with Heinz.

Has the change in ketchup affected the taste of McDonald’s food?

The switch from Heinz ketchup to McDonald’s own brand did not have a significant impact on the taste of McDonald’s food. McDonald’s assured customers that the change in ketchup would not affect the quality of their food.

Why did McDonald’s switch from frying its French fries in beef tallow to vegetable oil?

McDonald’s switched from beef tallow to vegetable oil for frying its French fries in the 1990s. This change was influenced by changing societal attitudes about health and nutrition, as well as pressure from health-focused campaigns targeting fast food chains.

How is McDonald’s updating its image?

McDonald’s is undergoing a significant transformation to modernize its image. This includes redesigning restaurants, introducing healthier menu options and adapting to changing consumer preferences. Ending its partnership with Heinz and developing its own brand of ketchup was part of this modernization strategy.

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