Loblaws to re-stock French's ketchup after customer complaints
Published Tuesday, March 15, 2016 12:04PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 15, 2016 9:31PM EDT
Customers will still be able to buy French's ketchup made with Ontario-grown tomatoes at Loblaws, after the grocery chain reversed its decision to drop the brand from its shelves.
Kevin Groh, Loblaw vice president of corporate affairs and communication, confirmed on Tuesday that the chain will re-stock French's.
"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," he said in the statement. "We will work with French's to make sure we are in-stock as soon as possible."
Customers had criticized the company on social media for dropping the ketchup, which is made from tomatoes grown in Leamington, Ont. The company said on Twitter, that it had dropped the brand due to “low sales and demand."
The push to support French's came to a head after an Ontario man wrote a Facebook post in support of the company last month.
Brian Fernandez posted a photo of a French's ketchup bottle on his Facebook page on Feb. 23, noting that he and his family bought a bottle and "absolutely love it." The ketchup is made with tomatoes grown in Leamington, and part of the tomato production is based in a local plant that once belonged to Heinz.
Heinz closed the plant in 2014, and about 705 jobs were lost as a result.
Then French's – a company better known to many for its mustard -- started making ketchup, and decided to use tomatoes grown in the surrounding southwestern Ontario region.
Fernandez took note of this in his post, and also praised the taste of the French's brand.
"The result: A ketchup … free of preservatives. Free of artificial flavours. Also, free of high fructose corn syrup!! We bought a bottle. Absolutely love it!! Bye. Bye. Heinz," he wrote. His photo quickly went viral, being shared more than 130,000 times.
Speaking to CTVNews.ca on Tuesday afternoon, Fernandez said he’s feeling “humbled” that his post helped play a part in Loblaws’ decision.
"I feel humbled to be honest," he said in a phone interview.
The father of three from Orillia, Ont., said he was initially compelled to write something about Heinz shutting down the Leamington plant because he could relate to the workers who lost their jobs.
"I'm just a construction worker from a central Ontario town, who's a family guy," he said. "I know what it's like to work hard…and it kind of hit a chord."
He said he never intended for his post to go viral, and was simply trying to "put it out there" that he was choosing to support Canadian workers.
But since writing the post, Fernandez says he's received hundreds of messages from other people who say they'll do the same, including people from other countries.
"People from Denmark and Sweden have written saying, 'We need to support our local economy, just like you're pushing your local economy,'" he said. "It's just been a wild, wild ride."
He says he hopes that consumers will think beyond ketchup, and consider buying other products that are made in Canada.
"If there's a Canadian product that's being made by Canadians that's just the same quality, and then there's a decision by the parent company to move out, then Canadians need to speak up," he said. "This is proof that a single voice can prompt change."
Fernandez said he's been invited to Queen's Park on March 24, to receive recognition from the Ministry of Agriculture for his actions. He was told that the president of French's will be flying up from the U.S. to attend the ceremony and meet him and his family.
Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at the University of Guelph's department of marketing and consumer studies, says that the decision to drop French's ketchup from Loblaws' shelves is typical of the types of decisions grocery stores have to make all the time.
"Real estate is very expensive within a store, so they have to replace a product that doesn't really sell very well with a product that will sell very well," he told CTV News Channel, noting that most groceries stock an average of 47,000 products on their shelves.
But that doesn't mean that consumers don't have power, he said.
"People are more aware and more willing to make a difference as consumers, when they walk into a grocery store, they're asking more questions and looking at more labels," he said, adding that he expects to see more of these kinds of campaigns in the future.