Ketchup is one of the most popular condiments in the world, if not the most popular. It’s sweet, it’s savory, it goes well on just about everything, and you can find either a bottle or packets of the stuff at almost any eatery, except maybe Chinese food places (and even that’s a toss-up in some states). The COVID-19 pandemic has multiplied the demand for ketchup over the past year as more people order takeout, receiving fistfuls of Heinz packets in their bags. Sales of ketchup products have risen over 300% since March of 2020. However, much like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and computer chips before it, the pandemic has caused the demand for ketchup to outstrip its existing supplies.
Kraft Heinz, the world’s leading supplier of ketchup products, confirmed to several news outlets this week that they are officially in the throes of a ketchup shortage. Multiple restaurant chains can corroborate this; seafood chain Long John Silver’s told The Wall Street Journal that they were forced to spend over $500,000 on ketchup packets alone in the past year due to the ever-growing need for takeout. Steakhouse chain Texas Roadhouse went through over 55 million ounces of ketchup in total over the course of last year, and were forced to cut costs by switching to cheaper, generic brands.
Ketchup shortage hits restaurants across the U.S. as demand for takeaway orders increases amid the Covid-19 pandemic. https://t.co/q05sQg14NA
— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 7, 2021
When the pandemic first began ramping up, Kraft Heinz foresaw the eventual surge in ketchup requirements and took steps to mitigate it. The company’s president of Enhancers, Specialty and Away from Home Business Unit, Steve Cornell, told USA Today that they “made strategic manufacturing investments at the start of the pandemic to keep up with the surge in demand for ketchup packets driven by the accelerated delivery and take-out trends.”
Even so, the demand for ketchup isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, with the cost of manufacturing packets in particular causing a 13% spike in wholesale pricing to restaurants. For the time being, Kraft Heinz is taking measures to ramp up production, such as the creation of new packet manufacturing lines, and are hoping to increase their production of packets by at least 25% by the end of the year.