Calgary diner claims 'better ketchup' than Heinz

The owner of a mom-and-pop diner in Bridgeland says she wants to shake up the ketchup oligopoly with what she calls “better ketchup.”

Owner of northeast eatery launches crowdfunding campaign to take popular sauce to next level

Mhairi O’Donnell has launched a crowdfunding campaign with ATB Financial’s startup booster platform to take her 'better ketchup' to the next level. (Falice Chin/CBC)

The owner of a mom-and-pop diner in Bridgeland says she wants to shake up the ketchup oligopoly with what she calls "better ketchup."

Mhairi O'Donnell says not a day goes by without a customer asking whether a bottle of Grate and Barrel's in-house condiment is for sale.

"I make about 14 litres a week — it's a lot," she said with a chuckle.

The homemade ketchup was created as an afterthought, to complement Grate and Barrel's main offering of grilled cheese sandwiches. But it soon became obvious that some people came just for the ketchup.

The sauce is such a success, O'Donnell has launched a crowdfunding campaign with ATB BoostR — a business startup platform — to take her "better ketchup" to the next level.

"We have a few grocery stores that have agreed to stock it," she said. "But we don't have the start-up cost because we've only been in this location for eight months."

The owner of Grate and Barrel says sometimes she wonders if her customers are buying grilled cheese just to use it as a 'vessel for the ketchup.' (Falice Chin/CBC)

Ugly tomatoes and secret ingredient

According to O'Donnell, the key to making delicious ketchup is to use ugly, ripe tomatoes — and a lot of them — roughly 70 pounds a week.

"It's kind of a balance between sweet and sour, but it's also chunky," she said. "We use the tomatoes that aren't pretty enough to go to grocery stores, so we try to divert waste from the landfill in that way."

There's also a secret ingredient, which O'Donnell refuses to divulge. She's so confident about her ketchup formula, she thinks it can give Heinz and French's a run for their money.

"When you go into a supermarket, there are all sorts of craft mustard, barbecue sauces and vinegars," she said. "But there's not really much in the way of craft ketchup. There's Heinz and French's, and then there's the store brands that look like Heinz and French's."

The Grate and Barrel campaign is looking to raise $10,000. O'Donnell says the money would be used to print better labels and for marketing. She hopes to reach her goal by early 2018.


Falice S Chin

CBC Edmonton

Falice is an award-winning producer who's been working for CBC since 2006, including with the Calgary Eyeopener and now as senior producer of Edmonton AM. Her career has taken her across Canada and the Middle East. Falice grew up in China and has lived in 10 cities around the world. You can reach her at: