The REAL Difference Between Fancy Ketchup and Regular Ketchup

As it turns out, fancy ketchup isn't so fancy after all.

Africa-Studio/ShutterstockMcDonald’s and Whataburger are two of the many companies that have caught onto the fancy ketchup fad, but is there really a difference between fancy ketchup and regular ketchup?

First, let’s examine the ingredients in McDonald’s fancy ketchup: “Tomato concentrate from red ripe tomatoes, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, water, salt, and natural flavors (vegetable source).” (Speaking of McDonald’s, we bet you didn’t know these 75 fun-facts about the international fast-food joint!)

Now for Whataburger’s fancy ketchup ingredients: “Tomato concentrate (water, tomato paste), high fructose corn syrup, distilled vinegar, sugar, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, spices, natural flavors.”

Just for the sake of comparison, here’s House Recipe’s fancy ketchup ingredients: “Tomato concentrate, high fructose corn syrup, vinegar, corn syrup, salt, onion powder, spice, natural flavors.”

More or less, all of the fancy ketchup’s contain the same ingredients. Now onto regular ketchup.

The internationally-known and beloved Heinz ketchup’s ingredients seem strangely familiar: “Tomato concentrate from red ripe tomatoes, distilled vinegar, sugar, salt, onion powder, spice, natural flavoring.”

Hunt’s seems to be following the very similar ingredient trend, as well: “Tomato concentrate made from vine ripened tomatoes, high fructose corn syrup, distilled vinegar, corn syrup, salt, less than 2 percent of: onion powder, garlic powder, natural flavors.”

Let’s throw in Woodstock’s organic ketchup ingredients for some variety: “Organic tomato concentrate (water, organic tomato paste), organic sugar, organic vinegar, salt, organic spices, organic onion powder.”

Strangely enough, all of these ketchups contain the same ingredients (with the exception of the organic not containing high fructose corn syrup). So, what’s the deal with the “fancy” ones? As it turns out, in order to be deemed as “fancy,” certain USDA qualifications must be met, which must ultimately meet Grade A standards.

Here’s what that means: the consistency must be exceptionally smooth, the color must be especially vibrant, the finish must be of the highest quality, the flavor must be first-rate, it must be almost completely defect-free, the total solids content must be equivalent to 33 percent or more by weight, and the overall score rate must not fall beneath 85 points in accordance with the scoring system.

In other words, if you prefer your ketchup to have a slightly smoother consistency and prettier color, fancy ketchup is for you. Otherwise, regular ketchup will get the job done just fine. (Now you’ll have a fun fact to share next time you ketchup with friends!)

If you decide to skip the brand names altogether, try making your own homemade ketchup with this spicy ketchup recipe! (If you’re really going organic, make sure you brush up on the basics of organic food first.) Regardless of which kind of ketchup you buy/make, be sure to store it correctly afterward to preserve its quality.

Brittany Gibson
Brittany Gibson is a regular contributor to RD.com’s culture, food, health, and travel sections. She was previously an editorial intern for RD.com and Westchester Magazine. Her articles have appeared on Buzzfeed, Business Insider, AOL, Yahoo, and MSN, among other sites. She earned a BA in English from the University of Connecticut