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Local ketchup maker battles Heinz over 'red zone'

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Chris Proffitt/Eyewitness News

Madison County - There's another red zone battle taking place off the football field. It's a tomato fight, of sorts. It pits Pittsburgh-based Heinz against Madison county's Red Gold. The two ketchup makers are fighting over the right to use the term "Red Zone."

Pitching products is part of pro football and its Super Bowl, but rarely do NFL sponsors become public rivals. Take the case of Pittsburgh-based Ketchup Giant Heinz versus Indiana's own Red Gold, both butting heads over a claim to the Red Zone - the NFL's battleground between the 20-yard-line and the end zone.

"It just strikes me as perhaps a local company trying to make hay on the back of America's favorite ketchup," said Robin Teets, Heinz spokesperson.

"The Colts and the fans own the Red Zone. That's what we look at," said Brian Reichart, Red Gold CEO.

Brian Reichart's family-owned Red Gold, Incorporated, started sponsoring the Red Gold Red Zone at the RCA Dome four years ago. The sponsorship has helped fill food pantries with 136 tons of Red Gold products. But Heinz, the nation's number one ketchup-maker, says it owns the Red Zone Trademark it uses at Heinz Stadium and three other NFL venues. Heinz sent a letter to the Colts and Red Gold demanding they stop using the term.

"We did send a cease and desist letter from our legal folks to the Colts because we believe that it was an infringement on the trademark," said Teets.

The Colts responded by filing a trademark opposition note against Heinz.

Back at Red Gold's Ellwood headquarters, where employees bleed blue with ketchup red, the controversy is now all-out bloody battle.

"Red Gold is Indiana. Heinz is Pittsburgh. Send em' back to Pittsburgh," is the general sentiment.

"I hope there's a guy in the 30th floor of the Heinz building watching this right now going. We gotta get out of this somehow," said Trevaor Kaye, Red Gold employee.

Red Gold's Reichart hopes the matter can be settled amicably and out of court with both sides sharing the Red Zone.

"We don't understand any logic. The Red Zone's been around since the 1980's, long before Heinz thought about it," said Reichart.

Red Gold says it's prepared to take the offensive in a legal game that won't be settled in the Red Zone.

A Heinz spokesman tells me the trademark dispute will ultimately be worked out without having to go to court, and that's fine with Red Gold which says it want the dispute to just go away.

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