Here’s What Makes A ‘Fancy’ Ketchup Different Than Regular Ketchup

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It seems the number of ketchup-related mysteries is ever-growing. One detail that has long haunted condiment connoisseurs is the difference between fancy ketchup and regular old ketchup. Why do Hunts and Jack in the Box both get to label their ketchup as “fancy” while others do not?

At last, it seems this mystery has been solved.

It turns out the label “fancy” is associated with a letter grade. Every ketchup in the U.S. is given a letter grade by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

“A (which is the highest grade and it’s called ‘fancy’), B (or ‘extra standard’), and C (‘standard’).”

A ketchup’s grade is determined by four factors: “color, consistency, presence of defects, and flavor.” Those factors are all run through this 21-page grading manual, issued by the USDA, that determines how any particular ketchup stacks up against the competition.

A grade-A ketchup is allowed to label itself “fancy” but must first be relatively free of defects, have a nice color, and (MOST IMPORTANTLY) contain at least “33 percent total solids.” This gives the ketchup the nice thickness that everyone appreciates in their condiments. Grade B or C ketchup can legally contain more additives and fluids, making them runnier.

Just because a ketchup isn’t labeled fancy doesn’t mean it hasn’t received an A grade! Heinz, for instance, doesn’t label itself as fancy but meets all the requirements. McDonald’s (which used Heinz ketchup until a former Burger King executive took over the sauce company), now makes its own ketchup, which also received an A classification.


While grade B and C ketchups are no less healthy than A-graded ketchups, they often lack the same devoted following the thicker, smoother ketchups seem to attract.

Now we know: The fanciest thing about a ketchup is its test-taking abilities. Enjoy your fancy burgers, everybody!

H/T – Today, Mental Floss


Written by Collin Gossel

Collin Gossel is a writer and comedian living in Brooklyn, New York, but there are nights when he looks up at the stars and wistfully thinks to himself “there’s got to be more out there…” You can catch Collin improvising new musicals every Tuesday night at the Magnet Theater’s Musical Megawatt, or follow his unfiltered thoughts on Twitter and Instagram @CollinGossel.--