Pandemic’s next shortage: ketchup packets

Heinz ketchup packets are in short supply.
Heinz ketchup packets are in short supply.

First, it was toilet paper. Then cleaning supplies were impossible to find. Now? It’s ketchup.

Before you dump a dozen bottles in your grocery cart, however, know that it’s the individual packets that are hard to find, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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“The pandemic turned many sit-down restaurants into takeout specialists, making individual ketchup packets the primary condiment currency for both national chains and mom-and-pop restaurants,” WSJ wrote. “Packet prices are up 13% since January 2020, and their market share has exploded at the expense of tabletop bottles, according to restaurant-business platform Plate IQ.”

Even restaurants that have opened their dining rooms are using the packets instead of bottles, to better comply with guidelines from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Avoid using or sharing items that are reusable, such as menus, condiments, and any other food containers,” the CDC said. “Instead, use disposable or digital menus (menus viewed on cellphones), single serving condiments, and no-touch trash cans and doors.”

Kraft Heinz told USA Today it is working to increase supplies, adding manufacturing lines that will increase production by about 25%.

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Restaurant managers told the Wall Street Journal they are using generic versions, pouring out bulk ketchup into individual cups and searching Costco for substitutes.

“We’ve been hunting high and low,” said Chris Fuselier, owner of Denver-based Blake Street Tavern, who has struggled to keep ketchup in stock for much of this year.

Fast food chain Long John Silver’s has had to buy ketchup from a secondary supplier to keep up with demand, WSJ reported, and the increase in price has cost the company an extra half-million dollars.

So the next time you hit the drive-thru, don’t be surprised if they’re out of your favorite condiment.

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