After a short-lived vaccine shortage, now comes the great American Ketchup Shortage. Now, ketchup packets are fast becoming a rare commodity as supply chain problems started affecting restaurant condiments.
The Ketchup Shortage is Real
The pandemic brought many disruptions to the restaurant industry. Abrupt store closures gave way to partial openings that came with mask mandates. After enduring closures, outbreaks, and sick employees, outlets across America now have to deal with the loss of ketchup packets.
Many American restaurants are struggling to obtain Ketchup stocks for their outlets. Managers reported having to use generic versions. In some cases, staff pour out bulk ketchup into individual cups or scouting the aisles of supermarket chains for substitutes. “We’ve been hunting high and low,” said Chris Fuselier, owner of Denver-based Blake Street Tavern. Fuselier remains in the fight to secure enough ketchup in stock for much of 2021.
Why Is There A Ketchup Shortage?
With lockdown orders across the country, many sit-down restaurants had to evolve into takeout counters. Issuing takeout food needs the requisite condiments, and handy ketchup packets became a staple. However, these restaurants’ increased demands overwhelmed manufacturers. While demand for packets exploded, the market for tabletop bottled ketchup went down. As a result, ketchup packet prices are now 13% higher since January.
Reportedly, even fast-food giants are dealing with supply shortages. Long John Silver’s LLC, a restaurant chain with around 700 outlets, had to get their ketchup from secondary suppliers due to the monster demand. As the ketchup shortage also caused prices to jack up, Long John Silver’s had to fork out an additional $500,000 for their ketchup budget. After all, single-serve is much pricier than bulk packages. “Everyone out there is grabbing for ketchup,” Chief Marketing Officer Stephanie Mattingly said.
Ketchup Is King
Ketchup remains the most consumed condiment when dining out. In fact, the US foodservice industry bought around 300,000 tons of Ketchup in 2020, according to Euromonitor. The ubiquitous tomato dip also enjoys a commanding audience in US homes. Consequently, the pandemic pushed ketchup sales up by 15%, generating over $1 billion in 2020.
If Ketchup is king, the King of Kings is Kraft Heinz. The popular brand holds about 70% of the US retail market for ketchup. However, even the king went unprepared for the pandemic. Kraft Heinz fell short in fulfilling orders for its to-go packets.
New Lines Open To Address Ketchup Shortage
To address the need for more packets, Kraft Heinz is beefing up its capacity. Steve Cornell, president of Kraft Heinz’s Enhancers, Specialty and Away from Home Business Unit, said help is on the way. Specifically, they will open two new manufacturing lines in April, and more after that. This hopes to increase packet production by 25% for a total of more than 12 billion packets a year.
While waiting for the new lines to open, the company is running extra shifts at plants. In addition, they held off making some varieties to focus on the flagship single-serves. “We’re busy doing everything we can,” Mr. Cornell said. In fact, Kraft Heinz invented a no-touch ketchup dispenser. This new dispenser aims to provide a COVID-safe alternative to the much passed-around ketchup bottles.
Do You Like Your Food With Ketchup?
It’s hard to imagine eating many American staple foods with ketchup. While the shortage focuses on the packets that come with many takeout meals, ketchup bottles in dining places are slowly being phased out to avoid unnecessary contact with objects outside. Even if manufacturers like Kraft Heinz manage to match supply with demand, the price increase will ensure that restaurant owners and chains will now scrimp in giving out packets to customers. In fact, there are reports that some fast food outlets now limit ketchup to two packets per order.
Watch the Today show video featuring a report on what’s behind the Ketchup shortage?
Do you like ketchup? Is it something you need when you eat out, especially takeout food? Did you experience the effects of a ketchup shortage in your area? Let us know what you think. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.