Ketchup Culture: Bottling 145 Years of Heinz History

Heinz opened their new European Innovation Centre in Nijmegen, the Netherlands in April. It’s the company’s largest R&D facility outside of the United States, and it includes spaces like a culinary kitchen for dreaming up new recipes, a pilot plant where researchers produce and test new products, flexible workspaces for employees, and—because this is Heinz, after all—a restaurant.

But the real attention-getter is the art installation in the lobby.

Acrylicize, the London art collective, designed and built the wall, dubbed “Wall 57” (after Heinz’s famous slogan, “57 Varieties”).

The decision to build it came after discussions early in the design process about implementing some sort of art feature in the reception area.

“We didn’t want a monument, and we didn’t want corporate propaganda,” said Mark Atkins, Heinz’s R&D VP for Europe. “What we wanted to do was create something that people would find intriguing, informative and inspiring.”

Strategy Plus (formerly DEGW), the interior architects on the project, floated the idea of a mixed media wall and the team tapped Acrylicize to make it happen.

“We started with a blank canvas,” said James Burke, creative director at Acrylicize. “We wanted to create a wall that encompassed past, present and future.”

To make sure that they accurately portrayed the brand on the wall, the designers immersed themselves in Heinz history.

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All images courtesy of Acrylicize.

“We took a journey into the depths of the brand,” said Burke. “We worked our way through biographies on founder H.J. Heinz, taking inspiration from the philosophies he instilled into the brand. We also made visits to the History of Advertising Trust [in England], and worked through their archives, selecting retro imagery to display on the wall.”

Additionally, Burke said meetings with key Heinz personnel were “pivotal” in the research process.

“We were able to absorb the world of the staff from a completely different perspective, as we usually only see it from a consumer-side,” said Burke. “We got a real feel for what the company does—far more than just ketchup!”

The designers distilled everything they learned into five key “pillars of innovation” to represent on the wall: packaging, production and distribution, marketing, iconic products and recipes, and brand philosophy. To form the layout, they stacked Heinz’s keystone-shaped logo multiple times to create a network of 57 windows, each telling an important story about the brand’s history.

What has resulted is an expansive, interactive wall, built with everything from tomato seeds and ketchup bottles to household forks and refrigerators.

“The wall has definitely stirred passion and enthusiasm for the brand amongst visitors and employees,” said Burke. “To have it displayed so prominently definitely makes all those involved and invested in the brand feel proud to be part of such an illustrious history.”

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