July 21, 2004

ENOUGH ON THE SCANDALS OF THE WEEK: Now I want to address the most unimportant political question of the day, while also undermining claims from Old-Media Pooh-Bahs that bloggers never do original reporting. Stinging from such accusations, I decided to do a side-by-side taste test of Heinz Ketchup and the new upstart, W Ketchup — thus answering a question that, to the best of my knowledge, Old Media outlets have shamefully ignored. Is it because they’re afraid of the truth? Let’s go to the test results.

Regular InstaPundit readers will know that I am a committed Heinz Ketchup partisan, and should keep that in mind in reading these results. (We bloggers wear our biases on our sleeves — take that, Poynter people!) Nonetheless, I wanted to give this new guy a chance to win me over. To ensure fairness, I ordered the W Ketchup off their internet site — no free-sample corruption here, despite my fond hopes therefor. It’s easy to be incorruptible when nobody’s offering to buy you anyway. . . .

The test apparatus is pictured at right — a plate, the two contenders, and a standardized product, McDonald’s French Fries, which should make this experiment fully replicatable by interested readers. The Heinz bottle is bigger than W — but so is John Kerry, so that seemed fair. And the French Fries are a traditional all-American product, like George Bush — but they’re French in origin, like John Kerry. That’s as fair and balanced as I can make things.

The expert taste panel, consisting of me and the Insta-Daughter, alternated between fries dipped in Heinz Ketchup, and fries dipped in W Ketchup, until we felt comfortable arriving at an opinion.

The unanimous victor — no hanging chads here — was Heinz. The W Ketchup wasn’t bad — somewhat sweeter than Heinz, which is no surprise given that its ingredient label lists “high fructose corn syrup” ahead of vinegar, while the Heinz label reverses the order. (The W Ketchup also has 5 more calories per serving). This too seems to reflect the candidates’ personality, with Kerry coming across as the more astringent. (Some people, however, are concerned about this: “A bigger worry for Democrats is that enough voters might decide that Kerry offers too much vinegar and not enough sugar.” But in ketchup, at least, a higher vinegar-to-sugar ratio turns out to be good thing.)

But the result is a bit of a role reversal: While W Ketchup is a perfectly respectable contender, it’s not enough to knock the reigning incumbent off his throne.

Of course, spoiling the already silly, but widely invoked, use of a ketchup contest as a proxy for the political contest is the proudly non-partisan status of the H.J. Heinz Company, and the lack of any connection, as far as I can tell, between the W Ketchup folks and President Bush. (And Teresa Heinz’s connection to the Heinz company itself is, despite the claims of the W Ketchup folks — “Choose Heinz and you’re supporting Teresa Heinz and her liberal causes, such as Kerry for President” — rather limited — though I’d like to own a similarly “limited” 4% of Heinz stock myself. . . .) And I suppose it was never much of a contest, as even potent anti-Kerry partisans freely admit the long-standing superiority of Heinz ketchup. Bush supporters can thus spin this as a triumph for traditional values.

Nonetheless, for those wondering whether W Ketchup can stand up to Heinz, the answer is that as a candidate it can cut the mustard, but its appeal isn’t strong enough to cut into the base.

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