At age 2, Logan Rosen made an important decision: Ketchup would be his veggie of choice — to the exclusion of all others. Tomatoes, lettuce, even Popeye’s favorite food became no-nos. When nursery-school partner-in-crime Lucy Bowden joined him in staunch support, there was no budging either. Moms Erin Rosen and Laila Bowden could only watch in horror, as their once-perfect angels engaged in Early Foodie Defiance. Lucy would lick ketchup off her chicken nuggets. More bold was Logan, proclaiming ketchup as his main course.
Neither mother, both seasoned with experience raising older children, was about to let her tot treat ketchup as a major food group. Surely Rosen, a UCLA communications grad, and Laila, with a master’s in psychology, could reason with their toddlers. But neither had done battle with the sugar-laden red monster. What’s a Palisades mom to do?
In true Lucy and Ethel fashion, they got the brilliant idea to make their own.
“We got together in my kitchen and started cooking,” says Erin. “We had to figure out a way to reduce the sugar without using high-fructose corn syrup but make it look, smell and taste like ketchup.”
“We tried cane juice, brown-rice sugar, organic sugar — still sugar — and corn, a flavor disaster,” says Laila. “The base was tomatoes, then we added broccoli. Well, we found out that no one wants broccoli in ketchup. Anything green, or brown, didn’t work.”
After months of simmering, stirring and sampling, they finally came up with a pleasingly palatable purée of tomatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, carrot and agave — a naturally sweet substance from the agave plant, and voilà — smells, acts and tastes like ketchup but better, with vitamins A and C and potassium, and only 3 grams of natural, plant-based sugar.
“Our kids and friends loved it,” says Erin, “and we had a product that could boost nutritional intake.”
So they went to work. First on the docket: researching on the Internet. They learned that they could rent a commercial kitchen to create their first sellable batch. After that, they began calculating large-quantity ingredient amounts, ordering 50-gallon vats of natural purées from a sustainable farming company in Oregon, buying bottles in bulk, earning a food-handling certificate, buying a $200 bottle sealer on eBay, approving a logo, getting a lab to do a PH test (“It has to be 3-something and 6-something,” says Laila), getting a bar code, organic certificate and nutritional analysis — not to mention the mishigas with the FDA to legally sell the stuff.
Still, they didn’t anticipate all the perils of real-world cookery. “Since we got frozen vats of purée, and we only rented the kitchen for one day, we had to defrost them in our bathtubs,” says Erin.
First lesson learned. From there the pair donned their aprons and rolled up their sleeves at Chef’s Kitchens on Robertson Boulevard, a licensed commercial workspace used by small food retailers.
By the end of a very long day, the moms had given birth to another baby — rather, 190 bottles, and named them Krazy Ketchup. The rest is history. The product, with a splatter logo done “in the Pokémon font” can now be found on Bristol Farms’ shelves for $6.99, as well as health-food markets about town. Best is that Logan and Lucy, both 4 now, get to smother everything with ketchup, with nary a word from their moms.