Ford, Heinz Team Up to Develop Tomato-Based Plastic

Here at's headquarters in Chicago, we are bound by local tradition to refrain from putting ketchup on our hot dogs — but we'll certainly consider putting it in our cars if it's more palatable to the environment. Condiment giant H.J. Heinz Co., maker of the iconic ketchup brand, has made a seemingly unlikely pairing with Ford to study the use of tomato fiber in developing more sustainable, composite bio-plastic materials for vehicles. Researchers are testing the materials' durability for wiring brackets and storage bins, according to Ford.

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The project began two years ago when Ford joined forces with Heinz, Coca-Cola, Nike and Procter & Gamble to accelerate the development of a 100 percent plant-based plastic to replace petroleum-based packaging materials. Heinz researchers had been looking for ways to recycle and repurpose peels, stems and seeds from the more than 2 million tons of tomatoes the company uses each year to make ketchup, according to Ford.

"Our goal is to develop a strong, lightweight material that meets our vehicle requirements, while at the same time reducing our overall environmental impact," Ellen Lee, Ford plastics research technical specialist, said in a statement.

So, will Heinz-sight be 20/20 and tomato fiber become the bio-plastic ingredient of the future? If so, the bio-friendly initiative could have other automakers and food manufacturers running to … ketchup. photo composite by Jennifer Geiger; Nabeel Zytoon/Hemera/Thinkstock

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News Editor Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers.  Email Matt