Book Review of HJ Heinz: A Biography by Quentin Skrabec

I had no idea how accomplished of an industrialist H.J. Heinz was before I read this book. He operated in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He worked tirelessly to establish a reputation for high quality products, when others didn't bother to invest the effort. This is why he insisted that Heinz products be sold in more expensive, clear glass bottles when competing sauces were sold in cheaper, brown or green glass bottles. He established a brand that individuals could count on for quality when most foodstuffs were sold out of unmarked boxes and barrels. He embraced automation and new technologies when others hesitated to make investments in electrifying factories or automatic bottle-making equipment. He designed factories in clever ways that cut costs, such as using gravity-driven can packing machines. He innovated the packaged food business by embracing solderless canning on a massive scale--allowing products to be canned with greater speed and with less risk of contamination. I even enjoyed reading about the catchy things he did to raise brand awareness, such as driving around in a ketchup-red electric vehicle with the Heinz logo on it when few vehicles existed and erecting large, Heinz signs at prominent hotspots such as the Atlantic City shore.

Overall, this book is a very informative biography of an incredible person who is so rarely profiled. The author also has a background in operations management and manufacturing, so he went into a level of detail that I crave that most books often don't go into. But he kept it around 300 pages so the detail is never too overwhelming. And he repeats himself often. This helps when the level of detail was previously overwhelming, but sometimes it is a tad annoying.

Re-posted from several years ago.

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Nice! The bit about selling product in clear containers is interesting. There was a similar transition when plastics, I think particularly cellophane, were first introduced. Customers could see the product they were buying—particularly with food—and be more assured of its quality, without exposing the product to air (and germs). So many little things we take for granted.