Ketching Love: Understanding #TheKetchupChallenge

Ketchup Challenge

When did ketchup peak as a favorite consumer condiment?

According to, the late 1700s, possibly, when cookbooks featured recipes for ketchups made from oysters, mussels, mushrooms, walnuts, lemons, non-tomato fruits like plums and peaches (sounds good!), and even celery, a historic precursor to when Heinz debuted its “Blastin’ Green” ketchup in the summer of 2000.

Not every variety is going to be a hit. In the ‘90s, Seinfeld famously sent up salsa as the heir apparent to the condiment kingdom when George decried its absence at the diner table – “Salsa,” he tells Jerry, “is now the No. 1 condiment in America!”

Costanza was almost right – though salsa has consistently outsold ketchup in the U.S. since about 1992, mayonnaise is technically the condiment revenue king, totaling more than $2 billion in sales each year.

Hold my beer probiotic, low-sugar energy alternative; Gen Z and millennials would like a word. Ketchup is back.

All’s Fair in Love and Condiments

Videos abound online of young couples – women, mostly – asking their boyfriends/fiancés/husbands if they’d please clean up the ketchup. Squirting a crimson skoosh on a countertop or table, The Ketchup Challenge – as it’s come to be known – is seen as a trending relationship barometer, asking the subject one (if not two) questions:

  • Can you clean this gooey, crimson mess in a swift, efficient manner?
  • More importantly, are you willing to do this small thing for me?

In other words, can ketchup – tangy, sweet, salty, everywhere – function as the ultimate relationship barometer in 2024?

Perhaps, at least according to sales numbers from e-commerce accelerator Pattern. Online demand for ketchup has increased 46% in the weeks following the original TikTok post in late December. With the Super Bowl over and Cinco de Mayo ahead, it may well be burrito season, but ketchup is trending, sales of Heinz and other ketchup brands are increasing, and some consumers’ relationships may best be served with meatloaf, hot dogs, or French fries.

For ketchup manufacturers, #TheKetchupChallenge is a welcome crimson blip on the mid-winter radar. Ketchup prices are up 10% year-over-year, and according to recent data from Circana, ketchup sales are up 7.6% in the 12 weeks ending February 2, 2024, outpacing mustard, jams, honey – even mayonnaise – as unit sales are also up 2.0% during the same period, exactly corresponding to the OG #KetchupChallenge video and TikTok post.

For some, the challenge is just an exercise in efficient kitchen cleanliness, with a wet rag or paper towel, a few brisk swipes, and a basic cleaning agent to finish with a dry, gleaming countertop or table.

Others aren’t so lucky.

“NGL [not gonna lie] this is a valid reason to leave him,” one user commented.

“He is so unhinged and I’m here for it,” said another admirer of questionable towel technique.

“I wouldn’t have done a thing, you poured the ketchup so you clean it up 🤣🤣,” wrote one sympathizing viewer.


The Heinz company even got in on the trend, posting a video in mid-January and commenting, “the only way we know how to clean it” – with a drive for some frozen fries, an air fryer, and a happy man using the ketchup as originally intended – as a condiment.

Is Ketchup the Secret Sauce of Relationships?

For some, the ketchup challenge is a joke. For others, it reveals deep, unsettling feelings of inadequacy, laziness, and a meh approach to the relationship. And there are thousands of #KetchupChallenge videos on TikTok with hundreds of thousands of views.

Performative? Perhaps. Toxic? Maybe – as one user above commented, if you deliberately made the mess, perhaps you should clean it up. It’s you – you’re the problem.

So this Valentine’s Day, if your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, parents, dog, or bestie asks you to please clean the ketchup, make sure you know what you’re doing.

Otherwise you may go viral in the worst way. Pass the ketchup?