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Ketchup Gets Krazy — And Healthier

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Krazy Ketchup is at H-E-B.

Krazy Ketchup is at H-E-B.

Parents, do you have a picky eater on your hands? The kind that won’t eat the vegetables you prepare for dinner?

Erin Rosen and Laila Bowden sympathize. The two women faced that with their own kids a few years back. To solve the problem, they set about trying to find a way that their children would not only eat their vegetable but like them, too.

So, they thought about what foods their kids did eat. One was ketchup, that perennial favorite condiment made from tomatoes seasoned generally with a touch of both sweet and tart ingredients.

What if they managed to get their kids to eat their vegetables by hiding them in ketchup?

To them, the idea seemed so outrageous that they ended up calling their product Krazy Ketchup. It’s an organic mixture that kids love, though they don’t realize there are carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and more cooked in with the tomatoes.

But it makes sense, especially when you consider how universal ketchup is in this country. As Bowden says, “Ninety percent of moms in America have ketchup. One in five mothers use ketchup every day.”

The addition of the vegetables isn’t too crazy, given the history of ketchup. According to “The Food Lover’s Companion,” the condiment began life in 17th century China as a pickled-fish sauce known as ke-tsiap. British seamen brought it to the West and the recipe changed over the years to include everything nuts to mushrooms. “It wasn’t until the late 1700s that canny New Englanders added tomatoes to the blend and it became what we know today as ketchup,” author Sharon Tyler Herbst once wrote.

But merely adding vegetables to ketchup didn’t mean the two women, who live in California, had an instant answer to making something kids would eat. In their first tests, they might as have used pickled-fish sauce. It took work and plenty of experimentation with vegetables and fruits, not to mention sweeteners. They learned, for example, that you can’t disguise the color of broccoli in the mix  — and you can’t disguise the flavor, either. That one was not a hit.

Molasses didn’t taste right as a sweetener. “Way too sweet,” Rosen says, adding that they eventually settled on agave nectar.

Their goal throughout was simple: It had to taste like ketchup. “It’s ketchup  — you should taste tomato,” Bowden says.

That is what you taste first, but there’s more to it than that. When you try this with a burger, you probably won’t notice much of a difference. When you taste it by itself, you detect more of the root vegetables and how they give the sauce an earthiness and a depth of flavor that go beyond more established brands, such as Heinz and Hunt’s. The tartness comes from citric acid, not vinegar, and that pushes this condiment into a sweet realm, which is something that will appeal to most kids.

It appealed to Rosen’s and Bowden’s children, who were used as taste testers throughout the research phase.

The two women initially bottled their ketchup by hand, and it found its way into a number of their local farmers markets. Word spread fairly quickly, especially on the Internet, thanks to the world of mommy bloggers, women who had faced exactly what they had with their picky eaters or children with allergies. In addition to being organic, Krazy Ketchup is also gluten-free, soy-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, casein-free and vegan.

Whole Foods picked it up for some of their stores, and recently H-E-B sought the women out because they wanted a healthy ketchup for their stores.

Growth has happened slowly for their company, Krazy Kitchen, and both are thankful for that. It has meant they could keep a firm hand on the consistency of the product as it moved from their making it into commercial kitchens producing caseloads to ship out to Texas and beyond.

What’s next for Krazy Kitchen? Bowden and Rosen have some ideas, but whatever the product is, it will have to be made along the same lines as their ketchup. It will have to be organic and use the best ingredients out there. In the meantime, they will continue to grow Krazy Ketchup.

“We’re a mom-and-mom operation,” Rosen says. “We’re still learning.”

Krazy Ketchup is one of H-E-B’s Primo Picks. A 15.5-ounce bottle sells for $5.99.

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