This is what the 57 on Heinz ketchup bottles really means

In the same way that the number 23 is associated with Dr Pepper (it's the number of flavors featured in the drink, according to Dr Pepper) and how Kentucky Fried Chicken has 11 herbs and spices in its famous batter (via The Chicago Tribune), there are definitely people who associate Heinz ketchup with the number 57, which has graced its bottles for decades. 

But whereas 11 refers to herbs and spices, and 23 refers to flavors, the meaning behind the number 57 is less clear. There are people who insist that it's the number of products made by the company (after all, Heinz makes beans, mustard, and gravy as well, via Heinz) — however, that's not quite right.

The full slogan is "57 varieties," and it dates back to 1892. But by the 1890s, Heinz, which got its feet wet by making horseradish products, already had more than 60 products under its belt.

So how did 57 varieties come about?

How the 57 varieties came to be

H.J. Heinz, who founded the company in the late 19th century, was on a train one day when he spotted an ad on the side of the car which advertised "21 styles" of shoes (via Smithsonian). Though this type of advertising doesn't sound particularly groundbreaking to readers in 2020, Heinz found it to be quite catchy and it piqued his interest. He decided that he wanted to come up with a similar ad campaign for his company which would catch people's eye the same way the shoe ad caught his.

Instead of counting up the actual number of varieties his company made, Heinz decided to fudge it a little bit. He picked his own lucky number, 5, and his wife's lucky number, 7, and put them together to get 57 —for 57 varieties, of course — a slogan he promptly rolled out. Though the company sold more than 57 products, they concentrated on emphasizing 57. Ultimately, the number was born from a marketing idea and the slogan worked — it's been catching people's eyes ever since.