New French's owners plan to continue Canadian ketchup production

U.S. spice company McCormick & Co. announces it will buy French’s and all other food products owned by Reckitt Benckiser for $4.2 billion US.

Sale could benefit both the brand and its new owner, says food distribution expert

French's first bottles of ketchup made from Canadian tomatoes and manufactured in Canada too have started rolling off the line at a food factory in Toronto (Jacqueline Hansen/CBC)

The U.S. spice company poised to take over French's Food plans to continue production of the popular made-in-Canada ketchup.

Maryland-based McCormick & Co. announced Wednesday it will buy French's and all other food products owned by Reckitt Benckiser for $4.2 billion US.

The deal includes Frank's RedHot sauce and other condiments made by the brand best known for its mustard and Canadian-made ketchup.

French's became famous in Canada in recent years following the ketchup war with Heinz, which was criticized for closing its production facilities in Leamington, Ont. Many consumers turned to French's ketchup because it was made in Canada.

"Performance is very strong and we don't foresee any changes to our commitment to produce ketchup in Canada," company spokesperson Lori Robinson wrote in a statement to CBC.

Where better for a ketchup taste test than Leamington, Ont., the so-called Tomato Capital of Canada? People had three choices: French's (A), Heinz (B) and President's Choice (C). 1:46

The 'French's Promise'

French's president Elliott Penner described McCormick as a "highly respected" food company and cited the "French's promise" to produce it's ketchup in Canada as a key source of company growth.

McCormick already produces spices, seasoning mixes and condiments, such as Grill Mates and Club House. Reckitt Benckiser will continue to focus on its other products, such as Durex condoms, Mucinex cold medicine, Woolite detergent and Clearasil acne treatment.

Penner said in an email that the decision to sell the French's business to McCormick was made "solely on the basis that a larger food focused company could extend the brands and support the business better than the current ownership."

Elliot Penner says U.S.-based McCormick is a 'highly respected' food company. (Provided)

"The French's Promise of best quality ingredients 'grown locally where possible' making the best quality products while supporting our local communities is a pillar of the French's brand," he added.

The sale, which Penner said is expected to close in this year's third quarter, could benefit both the brand and its new owner, according to Sylvain Charlebois, a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University.

"It's good news overall," he said. "There is some momentum around the expansion to manufacture French's in Canada and that's hard to stop."

McCormick has traditionally focused on ingredients and flavours, the professor explained, meaning it might someday sell off the well-known brands — but in the current uncertain business climate spreading out makes sense.

"As a caretaker of the French's brand I'd say McCormick is very internationally focused," Charlebois said. "Having facilities in places around the world isn't a bad idea at this time where a lot of things are unpredictable."