Call me incurious, but I’ve just accepted that some parts of life will always be a mystery to me. How does wi-fi work? Not a clue. Why do some birds sit on powerlines? No idea!
And to be honest, I hadn’t ever thought about what those numbers you sometimes see on ketchup packets are for ― until Heinz spilled the beans (ayy) on the topic.
In a Facebook group titled “Dull Men’s Club,” member James Orr asked the (actually far from dull!) question which led me down a sauce-based wormhole.
Posting a picture of ketchup and mayonnaise sachets with rings around the numbers, he said, “I don’t really know why I want to know this, but it’s eating away at me [―] why do these sauce sachets have different numbers on the tear[-]off corner[?] They are a different print to the best before date printing…”
Facebook user Karl Oldman directed the poster to an X (formerly Twitter) post about that exact subject. In 2015, Heinz revealed in the post that “the numbers on the sachets relates to the filling line which the sachet was filled on.“
They further clarified that this has nothing to do with batch numbers ― “There will be batch details on the box too, but the number on the sachet simply refers to the filling head,” Heinz clarified.
Some answers breed further questions, don’t they? Luckily, Danielle Traa, process manager at Heinz, shared some clues with Business Insider.
You cook ketchup before packing it, she revealed ― after it’s cooled down, it gets sent to filler heads to fill empty bottles.
These are not individual nozzles (as I thought), but rather full-on filling stations ― there were 70 in the factory Traa worked at at the time of filming, she revealed.
Before your ketchup bottle enters these filler heads, the Heinz process manager shared, “we make sure the caps are in the right position and go into a single row of caps to make sure they’re in the right position when they go through to the filling machine.”
A filler head “works by weight,” she added. “So a bottle comes in, we check the empty weight of the bottle, we fill it to the proper weight with ketchup, and then we check again if we reached the filling weight.”
So, now you’ll forever know which filler head your chippie dip came from. You’re welcome…