Ten years ago, Hartland High School teacher Kim Evans was in the middle of her weekly shopping trip to Meijer, throwing her regular grocery items into her cart when she came across something that made her pause.
While reaching for her required Heinz ketchup bottle, the label with the saying, Instructions: Put on Food, jumped out at her.
“So people were reaching around the Instructions: Put on Food bottle and grabbing one of the regular (Heinz Ketchup) ones,” the mother of three said laughing. “They just didn’t get the joke, but I thought this was hilarious.”
That was when the creative writing and applied communications teacher decided to buy up all the “goofy” ketchup label sayings she could find and bring them into her classroom.
The labels were part of a 'Say Something Ketchupy' campaign that lasted several years. Over time, Evans grew her collection to 59 unopened bottles of ketchup with witty labels. The bottles became a talking piece for her and her students, according to Evans, as well as a lesson in “subtle” advertising for her classes.
“Some people collect porcelain birds and some people collect velvet Elvis paintings and I do ketchup,” she said.
Her love of the specific Heinz-brand condiment became a "thing" for her family and friends who began gifting Evans with T-shirts, magnets, posters and even more ketchup bottles.
Her classroom slowly became a small shrine to Heinz ketchup with bottles placed around the room and framed advertisements of Heinz ketchup on the walls. As the holidays approach, a Heinz-ketchup packet Christmas tree will be added to the décor.
With her favorite sayings being Sunscreen for French Fries and Can’t Help Broccoli, Evans says she enjoyed tracking down as many different bottles as possible, even finding some in different states on family vacations.
While part of the collection sits up high on a shelf in her classroom, Evans says that over the years, there have been some incidents where students have tried taking some of the bottles.
“It’s kind of like that woman with the 27 children,” she said. “I still notice if there’s one missing.”
One year, one of her students decided to leave a ransom note that said the bottle wouldn’t be returned unless every student in fourth hour received an "A".
Evans laughs as she tells how she threatened her senior classes, telling them no one would graduate until she got her ketchup bottle back.
“Next thing I know, I get the bottle back,” Evans said with a smile. “It’s been a few years since anyone has taken one because I just warn them.”
Even though the Heinz "Say Something Ketchupy" campaign ended several years ago, much to the disappointment of Evans, she says her unusual collection is still a way to not only use a unique teaching tool, but also a quirky way to connect with her students.
“I also think, too, in school, you teach kids when you reach them,” Evans said. “If they know something about you, you know something about them. ... You have to be human with each other.”