If you have been looking for a right-wing condiment to top your Freedom Fries, look no more. The nation's first Republican ketchup has arrived - and it has been co-created by Lodi native, Stacey Hughes.
Hughes, the daughter of former Lodi mayor Richard L. Hughes and Sharon Hughes, wasn't a big political activist growing up, but she was smart and eager. She graduated from Lodi High School in three years and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo also in three years, with a degree in business and finance. She later earned her master's of business administration degree from Harvard Business School - the same place President George Bush got his MBA.
Still, the 33-year-old Manhattan banker took little notice of the ketchup business until she attended a barbecue with some Bush-backing friends a few months ago in upstate New York.
"We were squirting Heinz on our burgers and talking about how some percentage was heading back to Teresa Heinz Kerry (the wife of Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry). We thought that there should be an alternative ketchup on the market. One that didn't do that," said Hughes, a self-described conservative.
Teresa Heinz Kerry is an heir to the ketchup giant after her husband Sen. Henry John Heinz III, R-Penn., was killed in a plane crash in 1991, although she does not have direct control over the management of the company. She owns 4 percent of the Heinz company.
Hughes and her friends Bill Zachary, Dan Oliver and Susie Oliver, wanted to make a stand. Each contributed $5,000 to start the business and enlisted the support of 10 investors to get the business off the ground.
The first line of W Ketchup was produced the Friday before the first of July - just in time for Independence Day - with a label that features pictures of the Minute Men, the American flag and George Washington, who, the creators insist, is the W behind W Ketchup, even though it does play up on the current president's nickname.
The finished product is similarly all-American. All of the packaging and labeling is done in the U.S. Ditto for the ketchup, which uses tomatoes from San Joaquin County. The ketchup is bottled by the Fremont Company in Ohio - a swing state - who also supplies the ketchup formula. And five percent of profits benefit the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund, which awards scholarships for children of service members killed in the line of duty.
But how does it taste? Conservative in flavor?
"Well, it basically has less of a harsh and vinegary taste (than Heinz ketchup)," Hughes said.
W Ketchup officially launched its product in a page ad in the June 28 issue of the National Review, which read, "You don't support Democrats. Why should your ketchup?" Interest in this product has since spiraled out of control. News about W Ketchup has been reported globally from China to Russia, Columbia to South Africa.
Hughes said she is amazed by all of the attention but she hasn't quit her day job.
"It's just fun," said Stacey's mother, Lodi resident Sharon Hughes. "So many stories aren't fun but this is light and fun. That must be why it has attracted so much attention because it is just ketchup."
Eighty thousand bottles of W Ketchup have been sold to date through its Web site. The ketchup retails at $3 per bottle, with a minimum of four bottles per order. Hughes said they hope to roll their ketchup into retail stores soon.
But will we see W ketchup after the November 2 election?
"We'll see how things go. Certainly it would be fun to keep selling it," Hughes said.
For more information or to place an order, visit www.wketchup.com or call (866) W-KETCHUP.