Warren Buffett, 3G to buy Heinz, but it's not just about the ketchup

H.J. Heinz Co. products are displayed at a grocery store in Chicago, Illinois.

Legendary investor Warren Buffet announced Thursday morning that his company, Berkshire Hathaway, will team up with a Brazilian-backed investment firm to buy H. J. Heinz, the ketchup maker. The price tag? Just over $23 billion.

That may sound like a lot for condiments. For many people Heinz means one thing: Ketchup.

The company actually started with horseradish way back in 1869. It added “the red magic” -- as it later called ketchup -- a few years after. While it’s still best known for that iconic glass bottle of Heinz 57, it does a lot more.

“If you were in the U.K., for instance, Heinz Baked Beans is extremely popular,” says Erin Lash, an analyst who covers Heinz for Morningstar.

Plus they make sauces, soups, and pasta meals, among other products.

Lash says 60 percent of sales come from outside the U.S. That diverse customer base is likely part of the appeal for Berkshire Hathaway.

“Heinz has expansive global scale and they have a very strong brand portfolio,” says Lash. “Beyond that, the firm generates a boatload of cash.”

That combined with its iconic brand and long history, make it just the kind of company Buffet likes. He’s reportedly been keeping an eye on Heinz since the 1980s.

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