Heinz And Kraft: Before They Were Food Giants, They Were Men : The Salt Henry Heinz was big into pickles before ketchup came along. James Kraft gave the world American cheese. (Ironically, he was Canadian.) Now, two companies that revamped how we eat will become one.
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Heinz And Kraft: Before They Were Food Giants, They Were Men

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Heinz And Kraft: Before They Were Food Giants, They Were Men

Heinz And Kraft: Before They Were Food Giants, They Were Men

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

So Heinz and Kraft - ketchup and Velveeta. We wondered about the people behind the iconic brands and products.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Henry John Heinz came along first. He was born near Pittsburgh in 1844 and was bottling and selling condiments by the age of 15. By the time he was in his mid-20s, he had launched what would become the H.J. Heinz Company. Food science expert Gabriella Petrick says that at first, ketchup was not what Heinz was known for.

GABRIELLA PETRICK: He was largely known as a horseradish producer and a pickle producer.

CORNISH: Petrick teaches at George Mason University. She says the ketchup brand was born in 1876. By then, Heinz was selling a long list of food items - more than the 57 varieties it advertised on its labels. Apparently Heinz just liked that number.

PETRICK: It is a myth that there were 57 varieties. But later on in the 19-teens and '20s, the company actually went back and tried to make 57 varieties and sort of bring the legend into fact.

SIEGEL: And many years later, it was no coincidence that the deal that put the Heinz name on the Pittsburgh Steelers stadium was for $57 million.

CORNISH: A couple of years before Heinz started selling ketchup, James Lewis Kraft was born in Canada - that was in 1874. His family moved to Buffalo, N.Y. when he was a kid. Buffalo was then the heart of America's cheese making according to Gabriella Petrick.

SIEGEL: As an adult, Kraft set up shop in Chicago. Then he founded J.L. Kraft and Brothers.

PETRICK: He's really important because what he did was he brought cheese making into an industrial setting.

SIEGEL: The company pasteurized its cheese - a rare thing at the time. And because it had a longer shelf life, the government ordered millions of pounds of Kraft cheese to feed troops during World War I. Before Kraft got crafty with cheese, Americans had been eating a lot of cheddar.

CORNISH: Kraft came up with something new.

PETRICK: Yep. The originator of American cheese was Canadian.

CORNISH: Later came Velveeta. That was in the late 1920s. And the '30s brought Miracle Whip and the Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner.

SIEGEL: And now Kraft and Heinz will soon be one. Feel free to celebrate this marriage tonight with some mac and cheese drizzled with ketchup - bon appetit.

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