Behind the Money

Heinz Facebook Gaffe: 'Where's My Balsamic Ketchup?'


On Monday, ketchup fans worldwide were supposed to be able to purchase Heinz Tomato Ketchup made with a sophisticated twist—balsamic vinegar—exclusively through the company’s Facebook page.

Unfortunately, the 142-year old company hasn’t quite perfected the hip art of social media marketing.

As of 4pm ET, Heinz was still responding to the pleas of some of its 850,000-plus page fans with the response: “We are experiencing some technical difficulties with our Balsamic Ketchup tab. We are working to fix this as quickly as possible and will notify you when it is properly working. Thank you for your patience!”

“Where is my balsamic ketchup!?!” pleaded one passionate fan in a post. “How do you get the Balsamic Ketchup you promised on the 14th?” asked another.

Heinz did not advertise the promotion for the special ketchup, which won’t hit stores until December, but its vice president for U.S. retail brands was quoted in a Sunday New York Times piece about it on Oct. 25. The company added about 35,000 fans to its Facebook page since that story ran as word of mouth spread on the social network.

Heinz, founded in 1869 in Pittsburgh, is now a giant food conglomerate with $10.5 billion in annual sales and products such as SmartOnes, Ore-Ida and Bagel Bites on store shelves. However, Ketchup and sauces are still the No 1. source of the company’s revenue.

Heinz has been resistant to mess with its biggest brand, usually made with white vinegar. Only recently did the company start offering so-called Dip & Squeeze single-serve packages in restaurants and supermarkets, offering an alternative to its infamous small packets.

“We are excited to announce the launch of our Limited Edition Heinz® Tomato Ketchup with Balsamic Vinegar!” according to its Facebook site this morning. “Starting today you can purchase it exclusively on our Facebook page before it hits stores next month!”

Shortly afterward it directed a Facebook fan, who had complained about trouble purchasing, to a Facebook link to buy the special ketchup. After several similar complaint posts, the company put up the standard response and has been repeating it since. The firm’s public relations person did not return a call or e-mail for comment.

They better hurry. One user recently posted, “Fix that tab! I got fries waiting!”

Update: After this story was posted, the company sent the following response: "Heinz regrets that our Facebook launch of Heinz Ketchup blended with Balsamic Vinegar was disrupted today by unforeseen technical difficulties that we are currently addressing," said Jessica  Jackson, group leader of public relations and communications at Heinz. "Our goal is to resume offering this innovative new product within the next 24 hours."

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