This Famous Ketchup Company Used To Own Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers has a fairly simple business plan: inspiring healthy lifestyles by encouraging people to adopt a mindset of eating sensible portions of the foods they enjoy (via WW). So, it's little wonder that the company continues to be a success — even if (as reported by BBC News), its rebranding in 2019 to WW caused some confusion.

Even still, the company has always marketed itself as a stark contrast to other fast-paced and restrictive dieting regimes. Its plan allows consumption of mostly any food in moderation — meaning cheesecake, hamburgers, and ice cream are all completely acceptable. And they do so while encouraging members to discuss their frustrations and successes in a supportive environment. 

It did take a fair amount of time and effort for Weight Watchers aka WW to achieve this impressive status, however — and a helping hand from a truly mighty business leader made sure it was pushed into the mainstream way back when. In fact, it was none other than Heinz Ketchup that took the plunge to invest in the growing brand decades ago (via Mental Floss).

Heinz bought a significant chunk of Weight Watchers in the 1970s

Weight Watchers was officially launched in 1963 by late entrepreneur Jean Nidetch and rapidly became a huge success. By 1972, the company had opened in countries across the globe, boasting more than a million members (via WW).

Such intense popularity naturally started to provide WW with some serious funding, provoking the interest of a number of investors. Although the products sold by H.J. Heinz may not seem like a natural partner for Weight Watchers, in 1978 the ketchup giant purchased shares in the company totaling $71 million, making it a majority stakeholder (via The New York Times).

It was later reported by The New York Times in 1999 that Heinz had relinquished control of Weight Watchers, achieving an enormous payout of $735 million. However, Heinz retained a small number of shares in the firm, allowing it to continue producing its joint program of healthier ready-made meals (via Food Ingredients 1st) that continues to this day.