More than two years ago, trumpets sounded, the clouds parted and ConAgra Food announced its Hunt’s Ketchup would now (drumroll, please) be free of high-fructose corn syrup. Then just today, the Consumerist gang was tossing around news bits when we realized that somehow, Hunt’s slipped that HFCS back into ketchup, with much less to do and trumpeting — months ago.
We pride ourselves on being ever-vigilant, and are bolstered by tons of tips from you, our dear readers. So we were pretty shocked to discover that there hasn’t been much coverage of this return to HFCS, which happened back in May or June of 2012 (as noted by the World-Herald in Omaha).
The two-year experiment started based on consumer demand, as people started paying more attention to food labels and wanting to see more recognizable ingredients in their food. Hunt’s complied by replacing its HFCS ketchup with one that included five basic ingredients: tomatoes, vinegar, salt, seasonings and sugar.
The quiet switch back to HFCS ketchup is also because of consumer demand, at least according to a ConAgra spokesman back in June.
“Overall, consumer demand for the HFCS-free ketchup was not as strong as expected, thus prompting the change,” he explained.
Translation? It didn’t sell as well, and the company didn’t want to go around shouting from the rooftops that money is a motivator here. Which it likely is, as sales data showed that Hunt’s didn’t sell as much of the HFCS-free ketchup as it did with the old stuff during the same time.
Hunt’s still offers a “100 percent Natural” version of ketchup that has sugar in it, and costs a bit more than the “No Preservatives” kind which includes HFCS.
And even though the sugar version cost a little bit more to make, it’s not about the money, insisted the ConAgra spokesman.
“In general, this move reflects demand and not cost,” he said.
Considering this move remained under the radar so completely for so long is an indication that Hunt’s expected an outraged reaction from those same consumers who prompted the company to take HFCS out in the first place. After all, the first time it responded to consumer demand it made sure to publicize that fact, whereas this time around… not so much.
ConAgra Rethinks Ketchup [World-Herald]