Less than two weeks ago, Heinz left on a now-viral mission to find Elvis Francois, the man who survived at sea for nearly a month eating nothing but ketchup and spices. On Monday, the company told CBS News that they had found him in Dominica — thanks to the Internet and local reporters.
Francois, 47, rose to internet fame earlier this year when he was rescued by the Colombian military, who shared that Francois got lost while working on his boat in St Maarten after the weather turned and carried him out to sea. He couldn’t navigate his way home, so all he could do was “sit and wait” – and live off the little bits of food he had on board, “ketchup…garlic powder and Maggi”, a brand of soup .
His story prompted Heinz to call on people to help #FindtheKetchupBoatGuy so they could gift him a new boat that they promise will be “equipped with full navigation technology to avoid another disaster in the future.”
“The hunt is over,” a Heinz spokesperson told CBS News Monday. “Through the power of social media…Elvis found himself in the Caribbean on the island of Dominica.”
The company said its Instagram post reached 4.8 million people and received more than 4,000 likes — a brand record. It helped them get in touch with local news outlet EmoNews in Dominica, which the company said was able to contact Francois.
In a Facebook post, EmoNews said it “can confirm that Heinz representatives had a successful meeting with Elvis Francois via Zoom conference call” on Friday.
“Heinz and Elvis are working out the logistical details to gift him his new boat,” Heinz said. “Everyone who shared, liked or commented on the brand’s post helped expand its reach and was instrumental in finding Elvis…and Heinz would like to thank everyone who helped.”
EmoNews seems to have found Francois last week by posting a video interview with him on their Facebook page. In it, Francois says he is “quite a mysterious person” who likes to travel and take risks. Of his ordeal of getting lost at sea, he said he was alone when he got adrift and that boat was “having some trouble”.
“I spent 24 days [out at sea]’, he said. “I didn’t have much to make it, just a bottle of ketchup…garlic seasoning and a bottle of Maggi.”
He also tried eating seaweed, but said, “It was too strong.”
“Everything happens for a reason. The ketchup… has vitamins,” he said. “… My body was still fine.”
The reporter Francois spoke to in the video is also the first person he spoke to from home when he was rescued. It was the only person on the island he could get in touch with, he said, and he had asked the EmoNews journalist to let his family know he was okay.
At the time of the interview, Francois said people had told him about Heinz’s search for him, but the company had not contacted him directly. But he said he would welcome the contact.
“I don’t know what to think,” he said. “I lost everything I had on the boat.”
Heinz saw the video and responded.
“Incredible,” they said. “We jumped into your DMs – let’s get Elvis’ boat!”
Francois told the company “he thought it was ‘really cool’ to see something like this happen for him,” a Heinz spokesperson said.
Heinz has not released any details about the type of boat they will give to Francois.
In a video posted to EmoNews’ Facebook page featuring Flow, Dominica’s telecommunications provider, Francois was given a new phone and asked about his experience. The first question he was asked was, “How did you ration the ketchup?”
“[I was] thinking about what I can use to make a meal…I made it three times a day.”