Buffett’s Purchase of Heinz Caps 144-Year History: Timeline

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Jorge Paulo Lemann’s 3G Capital are buying HJ Heinz Co. for about $23 billion, gaining a ketchup maker that began in the 1860s.

The deal ends the independence of Heinz, which sells 650 million bottles of ketchup annually, according to the company’s website. The following is a timeline of Heinz’s history from a small condiment maker to a multidivisional packaged food company.

1869: Henry J. Heinz and L. Clarence Noble form company in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, to sell horseradish.

1875: Heinz, Noble & Co. negotiate pre-harvest prices for pickles with farmers. The company is then forced to file for bankruptcy after unexpectedly large harvests produce excessive quantities of cucumber pickles, straining resources.

1876: The Heinz family regroups and forms F & J Heinz and Co. and introduces its famous Tomato Ketchup. Henry Heinz later chooses the slogan “57 varieties” after seeing an advertisement for a shoe store boasting “21 styles.”

1900: The company erects Manhattan’s first electric sign on Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street. It was six stories high and included a pickle and the “57 Variety” slogan.

1946: Heinz acquires StarKist, with its popular marketing mascot, Charlie the Tuna. That same year, Heinz shares go public under Jack Heinz, the grandson of Henry Heinz, and the company expands into Holland, Japan, Venezuela and Italy.

1965: Heinz acquires Ore-Ida, the retail frozen potato brand.

1978: Heinz buys Weight Watchers International.

1979: Anthony O’Reilly is named CEO and leads a global expansion into Africa, China and Eastern Europe.

1996: Bill Johnson becomes president and chief operating officer at a time when retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and growth of private label brands put price pressure on Heinz’s products. Two years later he is named Heinz’s sixth chief executive officer.

August 2006: Investor Nelson Peltz initiates a proxy battle with the company over the makeup of the board. Following the vote, Peltz and one of his nominees join the board.

September 2005: Venezuelan authorities seize a Heinz plant in that country as the facility stood idle due to a dispute between the company and local tomato growers.

February 2010: Heinz reduces the sodium content in its ketchup to “support consumers’ desire from lower-sodium products.”

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