Products made by the US-owned Heinz company had been imported and sold in Australia since the late 19th century. The factory in Bendigo Street, Richmond, Victoria, was opened in 1935, the first product produced in Australia being bottled horseradish. The first canned product was baked beans in tomato sauce, soon followed by canned spaghetti and a range of soups.
The company was founded in Pittsburgh, USA, in 1876 and became H. J. Heinz in 1888. The ‘Heinz 57 varieties’ slogan was first used in 1896. By 1906, many of their products were available in Australia, with the Australian Town and Country Journal asserting that “Although an American firm, the name of Heinz is familiar if not exactly a household word in many houses in Australia, where its pickles, sauces, and preserves have been on the market some time”.
Tariffs were already in place to protect Australian industry, but during the Great Depression the Australian government implemented even more stringent tariffs on imported goods. This made manufacturing in Australia a better option for American companies.
The press reported in 1930 that “It is expected that factories for the manufacture of Heinz products will be established in both Sydney and Melbourne. A subsidiary company to H. J. Heinz, Ltd., was registered some weeks ago in Sydney, and it is believed that the heavier duties imposed under the new tariff schedule have caused arrangements for manufacturing various tinned food products to be expedited.”
During World War II, a shortage of tin plate meant that Heinz products disappeared from grocery stores, although the company continued to supply the armed forces. When the war ended, the range was expanded and the baby food lines were introduced.
As of 2019, Heinz (which merged with Kraft in 2015 to become Kraft Heinz) had four manufacturing facilities in Australia. The company also owns several iconic Australian brands including Cottee’s and Golden Circle.