Chuppy: A Look Back in Heinz-Sight by Jason Gleitsmann

This month, Heinz mascot and little ketchup friend to all, the beloved Chuppy plugged in. His Facebook page went live at http://facebook.com/ItsChuppy and the little guy has been interacting with fans and posting delightful photos like this one:

But we didn’t always have this fella, and the road to Chuppy has been a long one. Recent nostalgic trends (I’m looking at you, millennials, hell I’m looking at myself) have led to posts about discontinued cereals, favorite childhood cartoons, and many others. But what about Chuppy? I searched around and couldn’t find a clear history or even a collection of anecdotes in one place. As a big fan of classic companies like Morton’s, Johnson & Johnson, and of course, Heinz, I felt it was my duty to enlighten my readers. I’m Jason. I’m 26 and I run a food blog (http://jasoneats.tumblr.com) - currently under construction.

Believe it or not, the first version of Chuppy was crafted in 1934. This was the year that Heinz, having been in the condiment business since 1869, decided it could use a mascot. Two conceptual designs were drawn up: “The Ke-Chap” (a play on “kechap” - what folks in Singapore called the first batches of ketchup back in the 17th century, long before burgers or fries), and Mr. Peanut Look Alike: “Mr. Aristocrat Tomato Man.” Guess who won?

Mr. Aristocrat Tomato Man. Really? The poor little Ke-Chap never had a chance. He was well out of the ketchup lineage by 1939. But the good artists at Heinz couldn’t quite let go of the Ke-Chap. He returned briefly, now an adult, in 1947. The ad shows a knowledgeable, owl-like drop of ketchup pointing out a glass bottle of Heinz. Perhaps the black and white coloring of the ad left viewers wanting something more - a certain redness that these ads weren’t providing.

Heinz went back to basics for a while. And I mean basic as a trendy insult. Look who showed his fat shiny murderous red face again! Heinz prides themselves on being an honest company, but let’s face it - they were teetering dangerously close to becoming a lame, stupid company!

But in 1971, everything changed. For the first time in the company’s vast history, sales topped $1 billion. All bets were off! People were going to buy the ‘chup no matter what! It was finally Chuppy’s time to shine. Here’s his introduction ad (1971), coupled with a relatively recent Chuppy print (2001):

Wow. Look at the difference. The sweet, friendly Chuppy that I grew up with is the on the right. 1971 Chuppy is aggressive, riding the endorphin vinegar high of mad profits. To be honest, he looks like he’s on steroids. I’m surprised he doesn’t have teeth. Notice how he covers up the “57” on the bottle neck label so confused customers wouldn’t "hit the [wrong] 57."

Despite continuously rocketing sales, it seems like Heinz forgot about Chuppy for a while. America didn’t see Chuppy again until 1986, when this Back to the Future inspired version hit stores and magazines - mostly in the Midwest. This Chuppy is closer to the little guy we know and love today, but with a taste for guitar and hi-tops.

It’d be remiss to talk about Chuppy without mentioning Muz. The first release of Chuppy and Muz in 1991 was met with joy. Of course Chuppy would be “going with” a cute drop of mustard! Sales went up 6% the year this Chuppy & Muz advertisement appeared in Rolling Stone magazine.

It’s important to note that, while technology was improving everywhere (and continues to, obviously) - Chuppy’s creators have always valued hand-drawn (and often hand-written) advertisements. It’s a reminder of Heinz’ humble, hard-working, Pittsburgh roots that each Chuppy drawing is illustrated and colored in by one of their driven and talented staff artists.

This Chuppy and Muz piece was no exception:

It really is a good ad. What happened to Muz? Why haven’t we seen her in recent years? It seemed to me that the above may be the ONLY picture of her in existence! But a little digging led me to this ill-fated advertisement from 1993:

Relliam?! Baby Relliam? Are we to assume that Chuppy (ketchup) + Muz (mustard) = PICKLE RELISH? It leaves a naughty and nasty after-taste in the viewer’s mind. And the thought that they may just destroy this misfit family unit by devouring it and it’s hot dog home.

And look at the artwork here. It’s sloppy. It’s like the artist didn’t want to make it. There’s no cleverness here. Baby Relliam (apologies to his parents) is a disgusting splotch who peed and pooped rancid pickle juice all over the Heinz/Chuppy legacy.

The real clincher is our hero’s vacant expression. His ketchup-rimmed eyes say, “How the hell did I get here? I didn’t want any of this.” His stomach hangs lower than before - Chuppy’s let himself go. It was pulled after several months. Maybe Relliam’s fate was “Relligated” to being part of the 2000 campaign to release green ketchup. Sorry for the mental imagery of two Heinz Horrors as one. I hate Baby Relliam.

The real tragedy of this ad is that this mess of an ad kept Chuppy out of our papers and magazines for several more years. But the enthusiasm didn’t die. In fact, with the triumphant return of the Chuppy, on his 30th anniversary (see above comparison photo), a new renaissance of Chuppy fans (#chuppers) sprung forth.

Fans demanded Chuppy merchandise, began collecting the new ads, and Heinz began tentatively releasing more and more ads. Here’s one from 2004, a jolly escapade where Chuppy wears his name proudly:

Then, on November 19th, 2014, Heinz dropped a Chuppy parody photo of Kim Kardashian’s Paper Magazine cover:

The picture was shared more than 750,000 times. It was the catalyst for creating Chuppy’s Facebook fan page. And now, Chuppy is so much more than a smiling Ketchup Boy. He talks to his fans, offers advice - he was even a float in the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade. Unfortunately, due to copyright laws, I am only able to include this (hand painted!) design:

But that’s Chuppy. Flying high above - finally free of his old stigmas, free of Baby Relliam (I hope), and making the world smile. I can raise a burger to that. And I always will.