In addition to its ketchup, Heinz makes Classico spaghetti sauces, Ore-Ida potatoes and Smart Ones frozen meals. The company was founded by Henry John Heinz and his neighbor L. Clarence Noble in 1869. The pair's first product was grated horseradish, bottled in a clear glass to showcase its purity. The first ketchup was introduced in 1876; the company says it was the country's first commercial grade ketchup.
Last year, Heinz says it had sales of $11.6 billion, with ketchup and sauces accounting for just under half of that. Given the saturated North American market, the company has increasingly looked to emerging markets for growth. In 2013, emerging markets are expected to account for a quarter of the company's sales.
Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital, the investment firm which also bought Burger King in 2010, say Heinz will remain headquartered in Pittsburgh.
The per-share price for the deal represents a 20 percent premium to Heinz's closing price of $60.48 on Wednesday. Heinz said the deal was unanimously approved by its board. Buffett said on CNBC that Berkshire is putting $12 billion to $13 billion into the deal. But he noted that Berkshire will still have room to make more acquisitions, noting that its businesses continually replenish its cash supply.
"Anytime we see a deal is attractive and it's our kind of business and we've got the money, I'm ready to go," Buffett said.
The deal is expected to close in the third quarter.
Shares of Heinz were up nearly 20 percent at $72.45.