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Heinz CEO: Ketchup 'Better Than Vodka' in Russia

Heinzreported a strong quarter Thursday, with profits, revenues and sales growth up in double digits.

No doubt the near ubiquity of the company’s consumer products, both here in the U.S. and overseas, is the big reason.

“Whether we’re in a filet mignon society or a hamburger society, ketchup goes well with everything,” Chairman, CEO and President William Johnson told Cramer today. And so do Heinz-owned Ore-Ida French fries and Heinz gravy. “So there’s a lot of products to appeal to a lot of different needs.”

Believe it or not, Russia is actually the second-biggest ketchup market, and Heinz is gaining leadership in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Johnson went so far as to say ketchup is “better than vodka” there.

Ketchup “improves virtually any food they put on their plate,” Johnson said, “and they love it.”

Heinz’s ketchup sales in Russia were up 68% just in the first quarter.

Changes in a lot of overseas governments and economies, like Russia and China, and the emergence of a middle class there, have opened the door for Heinz products.

“Our brands appeal to those kinds of people and in those kinds of economic conditions,” Johnson said.

“The opportunity for us is ahead of us,” he said, “not behind us.”

And tough economic times don’t seem to hurt the company much either apparently. Johnson said as money’s stretched and consumers buy cheaper cuts of meat, that only increases demand for Heinz ketchup, gravy and other sauces.

“It’s all good news for us,” he said.

Cramer’s call: “This stock’s a buy.”




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