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Why Heinz beans are truly the life blood of our town

The Heinz factory at Kitt Green
The Heinz factory at Kitt Green

Our top columnist Geoffrey Shryhane looks at what Heinz means to Wigan...

The story of Heinz never ceases to fascinate me. And let’s face it, the worldwide food company has made a giant mark on tens of millions of lives.

So with the help of a local book sponsored by Heinz, it’s time to see just how it all began in a place far, far away from Wigan.

In 1816 a Pittsburgh boy of 16 began to bottle grated horseradish from the family garden. It was young Mr Henry J Heinz.

By 1869, bottled pickles were becoming a success – no impurities, no artificial preservatives, and no colouring. Plus a money back guarantee if customers were dissatisfied. One of the firm’s mottoes was: “To do a common thing well brings success.”

In 1889, Mr Heinz sailed for Britain with five samples he took to Fortnum and Mason. They bought the lot.

It was not until the turn of the century that a processing factory was set up in Peckham.

Spotting a shoe sign saying “20 styles”, he decided on Heinz 57 but some say it was his wife’s idea because she liked the figure.

By the war it was obvious that more processing factories were needed. Temporary factories were set up in old munitions factories. And they had a life of 30 years.

By 1951 it was clear that a huge new factory was needed – and Kitt Green in Wigan fitted the bill. It had a good supply of excellent water and is the biggest food factory of its kind in the world.

There was, of course, a Heinz factory at Standish but that was to close much later, with processing being concentrated at Kitt Green.

The grand Kitt Green opening was on May 21, 1959, with the very great and the very good in attendance. The Queen Mother also looked around.

Just how impressive is this – the local Heinz factory produces half a million cans of beans and a similar number of soups EVERY day. Plus ketchup and baby food.

The story is one of continuing success.