The pandemic has led to panic buying on all sorts of products, but we must admit we didn’t see this one coming. There’s a shortage of ketchup packets across the U.S., as takeout orders, supply-chain problems and Americans’ love of that particular condiment has forced restaurants to take desperate measures.
As the supply of the tiny ketchup packets has dwindled, some eateries are limiting how many customers can take. Restaurants are also buying bottles of ketchup and pouring it into smaller plastic cups for takeout orders. Heinz is the undisputed ketchup king, accounting for nearly 70% of sales of the condiment in 2020.
But with their familiar packets in low supply, some restaurants — like the Texas Longhorn chain of steakhouses — are seeking out substitutes. That’s not going over well with some folks who take their condiments seriously.
Others have been sharing their good fortune and being able to score a few of the prized packets during a fast food run.
Some people are trying to cash in on the shortage by selling ketchup packets on eBay.
According to the Wall Street Journal, part of the problem is the pivot many restaurants did to take-out service to survive the pandemic. Instead of the ketchup bottles sit-down restaurants often use, the packets became the primary condiment serving. As a result, packet prices have risen 13% since January 2020. The cost increase has been significant for fast-food chains like Long John Silver’s, which says it’s spent an extra $500,000 on ketchup in the run-up because the individual-serving packets cost more than buying the bigger bottles.
Ketchup is America’s favorite condiment, but it’s far from the only popular item that has become hard-to-find during the pandemic. Remember when toilet paper was impossible to find? Hand Sanitizer, Lysol spray, even pepperoni had a scarcity problem at one point last summer, which sent pizza shops into a panic.
Heinz is doing what it can to, er…ketchup to demand. It’s running extra shifts at its plants and cutting down on production of different varieties to focus on the flagship product. So have a little patience, and until the supply is replenished, maybe give mustard a shot.