The Chinese have been using what can be termed as the ‘predecessor of ketchups’ for a long time. The invention of ketchup can’t be attributed to a single person. It was born when the English and the Dutch soldiers, coming from China back in the 16th century, brought with them salty, pickled fish sauce called ‘ketsiap’. Soon the British variants appeared with local flavors. The first recorded used of the word ‘catchup’ in reference to sauce dates back to 1690, this was corrupted to ‘ketchup’ by the year 1711.
Today, by the term ‘ketchup’ we normally think of ‘tomato ketchup’. It is the most widely known flavor. But back in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was just one of the flavors available in the markets and ‘mushroom ketchups’ were far more popular.
Henry John Heinz, a German immigrant to the United States, can be regarded as the inventor of modern ketchup. He was an entrepreneur and the modern ketchup was born more out of necessity. Ketchups till the early 20th century used sodium benzoate as a preservative. Sodium benzoate can be dangerous if consumed above a certain limit. In the early years of 20th century, the Food and Drug Administration, in the United States, began to question the safety of this chemical. It was then that Henry J. Heinz came up with a recipe to make ‘ketchups’ which didn’t require this chemical. Prior to Heinz, the ketchups were watery thin. Heinz made improvements and gave us our modern ketchup. The company established by him, H. J. Heinz Company, is still a leading global player in the food processing industry.