Sunday, 27 October 2013

Big Mac, but no Heinz ketchup

Corporate battles are usually hard fought, but this really is the limit. McDonald's is blacklisting Heinz because they had the temerity to appoint the ex chief of Burger King as their CEO. Sure, some rivalries are legendary - Coke vs Pepsi, P&G vs Unilever, Apple vs Microsoft, Walmart vs every other retailer, and indeed McDonald's vs anybody else who sold burgers. But isn't this a step too far ?

HJ Heinz, the makers of Heinz Ketchup were recently bought out by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathway. The new owners appointed Bernando Hees as the CEO. The trouble is that Bernando is the ex CEO of Burger KIng. Apparently McDonald's is finding this objectionable. So the next time you buy a Big Mac they wouldn't give you those sachets of Heinz - one if you buy in in India, two in China and a fistful in the US !  Presumably it would be somebody else's - maybe Hunt's or whatever.

Yes, corporate rivalries are taken seriously. If you work for Pepsi and are seen drinking  Coke, well, let us say your career is not going to zoom. A long time ago, this blogger was invited to a Pepsi dominated party and thoughtlessly asked for a Coke (just as a generic term for cola) . The hush that followed , the incomprehension of what I had done wrong for a minute, the dawning realisation and then the flush of embarrassment - well; 20 years on, it is still fresh ! Equally vivid is the memory of hosting a Coke delegation at work and going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that Coke was the only cola seen for miles; only to discover one bottle of Aquafina - just one - at somebody's desk.

But that is relatively unusual in these days when corporate loyalties are somewhat passe. This blogger is a die hard alumni of one of the aforesaid mentioned companies and would really hesitate to buy the rival's products. But this is not some religious zeal - just habit formed over the years.

Which is why I am surprised at McDonald's move. They are not such hated rivals of Burger King. And ketchup is a small portion of their ingredients- after all there is a lot more to burgers and fries than ketchup. And Heinz is not doing something ridiculous of going to bed with competition. All they did was appoint somebody as a CEO. Does this warrant such an extreme reaction ? McDonald's is behaving like the proverbial school bully. Grow up, you lot.

Competition need not be a war. The other guy is not some hated tyrant who ought to be exterminated. Sure, you want to beat him, but you do not have to be a Genghis Khan. Cooperation, even with competition, is not unheard of. While Apple is slugging it out in a patent war with Samsung, they quietly buy chips from .

So shame on you McDonald's for issuing this press statement - "As a result of recent management changes at Heinz, we have decided to transition our business to other suppliers over time" . Here is my own statement - As a resulted of pig headed behaviour by McDonald's I am hereby declaring that I will not have a Big Mac ever. Anybody hahaing that statement on the grounds that I am a vegetarian will be hit on the head !

PS - Actually this post has taken somewhat extra liberties with journalistic licence. Heinz has been acquired by Berkshire Hathway and 3G Capital. 3G capital are also the owners of Burger King. So there is more to it than pig headedness. But then , a post is a post is a post and a blogger has to survive ....... :)


Sriram Khé said...

No puns here?

Are you sure you have "squeezed" out everything from this story?
All the "57 varieties"?
That was the ketchup "to go"?
I say tomato, you say Heinz?
Will McDonald's realize the incorrectness of its decision with the 20/20 "Heinz sight"?
I suppose sometimes spicy news comes in small packets?

Ok, am done ;)

On a serious note, there has to be a backstory to this ... I can't imagine a business decision to be made on such flimsy grounds. I scanned around the web ... for one, it apparently is more a decision for the market outside the US. because, in the domestic market, only the Heinz HQ/environs are apparently served with Heinz. So, could be that the other domestic supplier was already in the works, and this merely was a convenient timing?

Prats said...

I don't believe that would be the case to terminate the relationship with Heinz there has to be some more business sense to it. Your footnote probably is one and there might be some other which we aren't aware of, but I hardly find it plausible that the CEO would be the primary reason for this.

And ROFL at Sriram's comment

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

@Sriram: I remember the one from my days. It is 1981 and Big Blue has just decided to investigate this PC phenomenon, and set up a skunk works team to build it. The earlier machines from long lost vendors all ran an operating system called CP?M (Control Program for Microcomputers) invented by a genius called Gary Kildare. Well this team of suits landed up in the headquarters of Digital Research Inc (Kildare's company) to attend a presentation on CP/M. Only to find that since it was a beautiful day Gary had decided to take his private plane out for a spin. The IBM team returned to Armonk in a fury. When young Gates heard of this he purchased an existing operating system called DOS - renamed it MS-DOS and licensed it to IBM. THe rest is history. Until the mid 90s textbooks used to talk about how elegant CP/M was. Now no one know about it.

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

And what about BCCI cutting ties with Cricket South Africa because of Haroon Lorgat?

Appu said...

ha ha It's always personal ;) I strongly believe in that! :) I almost fell for the you will not buy a big mac unless i realized the following lines :P
and for the Genghis Khan, He is a misunderstood one
BBC has a documentary on him which i have heard of but not seen! supposed to be too good

Ramesh said...

@Sriram - Wow - that's one great pun attempt.

@Prats - I think there was some personality clashes between Hees and McDonald's and this is all personal spite

@Ravi - BCCI is equally an ass

@Zeno - Screw leadership. Genghis Khan is one of the worst mass murderers in human history.

Hopfrog said...

"those sachets of Heinz - one if you buy in in India, two in China and a fistful in the US !"

You've been away too long friend. They now only give you 3 packets in the US (still the high score apparently) and have signs at the registers now which state "We reserve the right to charge for extra condiments". As far as I know you can still ask for more packets without being charged, but I haven't eaten there in a long time so can't say for sure. They might be charging, regardless, it's 3 now and at the very least... 'strongly frowned upon' to ask for more.

I've never been a big fan of the arches, but I'm the rest of your astute readers, it seems there must be more to it. The postscript seems to hold a clue, but I wouldn't put anything past the clown and his gang. Including encouraging workers to abuse the welfare system:

Ramesh said...

@Hopfrog - Really ? Only 3 miserable sachets. Whatever has happened to the good old US of A :)

Yeah McDonald's doesn't seem to be covering itself in glory on any front.

Reflections said...

This post reminds me of my FIL. He used to work for Heinz at one point & seems like KFC got miffed with Heinz over some small issue & stopped using their sachets and Heinz never recovered after tht, thats his story anyway;-P.
Next time I'm going to remember to chk wht ketchup we get when we order MD;-D.

Ramesh said...

@Reflections - Yes, fast food chains behave like that - they think the other guy is their mortal enemy. Alpha males they seem to be, but why such emotion in something as prosaic as a burger !

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