Less than two weeks ago, Heinz set out on a now-viral mission to find Elvis Francois, the man who survived nearly a month at sea by eating nothing but ketchup and seasonings. On Monday, the company told CBS News that they 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 became lost while working on his boat in St. Maarten after the weather shifted and carried him out to sea. He wasn’t able to navigate his way home, so all he could do was «sit down 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 put out a call for people to help them #FindtheKetchupBoatGuy so they could gift him a new boat that they promise will be «equipped with full navigational technology to avoid another disaster in the future.»
«The hunt is over,» a spokesperson for Heinz told CBS News on Monday. «Through the power of social media … Elvis was located in the Caribbean on the island of Dominica.»
The company said that its Instagram post reached 4.8 million people and garnered more than 4,000 likes – a brand record. It helped them get in touch with local Dominica news outlet EmoNews, who the company said was able to contact Francois.
In a Facebook post, EmoNews said that it «can confirm that the representatives of Heinz had a successful meeting with Elvis Francois via Zoom Conference call» on Friday.
«Heinz and Elvis are working out the logistical details of gifting him his new boat,» Heinz said. «Anyone who shared, liked or commented on the brand’s post helped broaden the reach and played an important part in finding Elvis… and Heinz wants to thank everyone who helped.»
EmoNews appears to have found Francois last week, posting a video interview with him on their Facebook page. In it, Francois says he’s «quite a mysterious person» who enjoys traveling and taking risks. About his ordeal getting lost at sea, he said that he was by himself when he went adrift and that boat «had some issues.»
«I spent 24 days [out at sea],» he said. «I didn’t have so much to make it, but 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 OK.»
The reporter Francois spoke with in the video is also the first person he spoke with from home as he was rescued. It was the only person from the island he could get in contact with, he said, and he had asked the EmoNews journalist to let his family know he was OK.
At the time of the interview, Francois said people had told him about Heinz’s search for him, but he hadn’t been contacted by the company directly. But he said he would welcome the contact.
«I don’t know what to think,» he said. «I lost all that I had on the boat.»
Heinz saw the video and commented.
«Incredible,» they said. «We’ve hopped into your DMs – let’s get Elvis his 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 details about the kind of boat they will give Francois.
In a video posted to EmoNews’ Facebook page with Flow, Dominica’s telecommunications provider, Francois was provided a new phone and was 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.»
Li Cohen is a social media producer and trending content writer for CBS News.