An Austrian organic start-up returns to its American roots
A large proportion of consumers reach for ketchup, which mainly contains sugar and concentrate. But a good ketchup should above all taste of sun-ripened tomatoes. And that’s why the Curtice Brothers make their ketchup of the same name from fresh organic tomatoes. All other ingredients such as apples, onions, garlic, ginger and chilli are also produced by organic farmers in Tuscany with great respect for nature.
As early as 1868, the brothers and greengrocers Edgar and Simeon Curtice started a first ketchup production in Rochester in the US state of New York. At the beginning of the 20th century, “Curtice Brothers” was still one of the most popular ketchups in the USA – until the brand was finally discontinued in the 1940s.
This ended the history of the Curtice Brothers brand – for the time being. At least until the well-travelled entrepreneur, well-known keynote speaker and Vapiano manager Mario C. Bauer, who spends up to 300 nights a year in hotels, realised that a similar ketchup was on the table almost everywhere in the world: an industrial product with almost 30% sugar, cheap tomato concentrate, the rest vinegar and corn starch.
Although our demands on food have been rising for years, ketchup has remained at a low quality level.
When Bauer then found confirmation for his judgement among his circle of friends, the like-minded people quickly agreed that the time was ripe to develop and market a better alternative to the common “ketchup one-size-fits-all”.
Rebirth of a quality brand
When they then also came across the defunct “Curtice Brothers” brand, Bauer and four other “brothers” bought the rights to the name, with the firm intention of cooking a ketchup the way you would make it at home for your family. With a simple recipe of ripe tomatoes, balanced with spices, balsamic vinegar and only a little sugar. As simple as the product is, the top quality it strives for depends on the ingredients selected with great care. First and foremost, of course, are the tomatoes. The fact that they come from Italy says little about their taste quality. Decades ago, seed producers and agricultural companies “recommended” small farms in southern Italy to abandon the cultivation of the traditional, excellent egg tomato “San Marzano” in favour of hybrid varieties. Their most outstanding characteristic is their resistance to pressure, so that they can survive transport to the ketchup factories in the north without damage. Their taste is secondary at best. And since these varieties cannot be grown by the farmer or gardener from home-grown seeds, as used to be the case, they contribute to the tomato farmers’ dependence on the agricultural industry. Not only are they forced to buy new seeds every season, but a fixed date is imposed on them when harvesting machines finally rip the plants out of the ground and shake out the pressure-resistant fruits. Since the quality of an end product depends above all on the quality of its ingredients, it is not surprising, in view of the largely flavourless “industrial tomatoes”, that so much sugar is used as a flavour enhancer in standard ketchups.
From Tuscany to the whole world
The freshly harvested apples of paradise, which Mario C. Bauer’s Curtice brothers use for their product, are different. They come exclusively from organic farms in Tuscany. In addition, there are other fresh organic ingredients and about 50 percent less salt and industrial sugar than in other ketchups.
Initially offered exclusively in luxury hotels and top restaurants in eleven European countries, Curtice Brothers Ketchup is now also available in stores. Since the beginning of the Corona crisis, Curtice Brothers has also launched its own online shop: Here, ketchup fans from Germany, Austria, the UK, France and the Netherlands can have organic mayonnaise with free-range eggs and organic mustard made according to a special Belgian recipe conveniently delivered to their homes in addition to the vegan and gluten-free organic ketchup.
The fact that the makers and employees of the Vienna-based company are on the right track has already been confirmed to them by the jury of the coveted Great Taste Award, which Curtice Brothers has already won twice in a row for the best ketchup.
Returning to the roots
Today, in addition to Mario C. Bauer and co-founder Christoph Callies, the now international “family” of the organic ketchup producer includes successful restaurateurs Andreas Karlsson from London, Enrico Sodano from Zurich, Philipp Zinggl from Vienna and Ehren Ashkenazi from New York. Since 2019, two more high-profile entrepreneurs have contributed to the success of the Ketchup Brothers with their knowledge and investment: Henry McGovern, founder of AmRest, one of the largest multi-gastronomes in Europe, and Clive Schlee, former CEO of the globally successful cult sandwich chain Pret A Manger believe strongly in the Curtice Brothers brand and products.
Now the Curtice Brothers even want to recapture the US market and do so together with a very special joint venture partner: Matt Better’s great-grandfather was once one of the largest shareholders of Curtice Brothers. “Now his great-grandson is continuing the journey together with us. This is no coincidence. Fate wanted us to find each other,” Mario C. Bauer is convinced. And that’s not all, because he managed to rent rooms for the new start in, of all places, the building in Rochester where the company was founded 152 years ago. A more beautiful continuation of the Curtice Brothers story could hardly have been imagined.
More information at