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Ketchup shortage hits restaurants in the United States

If you’re someone who enjoys the phrase “I put ketchup on my ketchup,” you’ll be interested – and perhaps slightly horrified – to hear about the latest supply chain shortage to hit the country. .

As the Wall Street Journal first reported, packets of ketchup are seemingly scarce right now, and restaurants and fast food chains are struggling to keep up with demand.

Ketchup has always been a staple condiment for Americans, but since the pandemic forced many restaurants to step up their take-out game, demand for these convenient individual packs has rapidly exploded. And the rules of supply and demand have led to a 13% increase in ketchup packet prices since 2020, according to the newspaper.

Fast food chains have always distributed these disposable pouches, but table-top restaurants have traditionally placed ketchup bottles on tables or poured it into a bowl for customers. With the two foodservice models now competing for packages, or pouches, as industry experts call them, the supply chain has been stretched to its limits.

Single serve Heinz ketchup packets.Jon Elswick / AP

Kraft Heinz is, of course, the best-known ketchup maker, and the company accounts for nearly 70% of the U.S. retail ketchup market, the Wall Street Journal reported. With more people eating at home, sales of ketchup bottles have also increased 15% in the past year, reaching over $ 1 billion in 2020.

Due to the shortage of the supply chain, many restaurants limit the number of packages they give to customers or resort to purchasing generic brands of ketchup that they don’t normally use. Some popular fast food chains like Long John Silver’s and Texas Roadhouse even had to contact secondary vendors for packages.

Steve Cornell, president of Kraft Heinz’s Enhancers, Specialty and Away from Home division, told TODAY Food the company is working hard to meet demand for those coveted ketchup packets as the take-out industry continues. to explode.

“The unmatched consumer love for our iconic HEINZ brand as well as our long-standing partnership with the restaurant industry are two responsibilities we take very seriously – which is why we have made strategic investments in manufacturing at start of the pandemic to cope with the surge in demand. for ketchup packages driven by expedited delivery and takeout trends, ”he wrote in an emailed statement.

Cornell also noted that Kraft Heinz has explored new packaging options to help evolve with its industry.

“At the same time, we have also accelerated forward-looking culinary and packaging innovations, as well as other manufacturing expansion plans, as we believe there is a huge opportunity to grow our brands. in the exciting restaurant business, ”he said.

Fans of the 150-year-old ketchup brand will recall that Kraft Heinz invented a single-serve ketchup platter called Dip & Squeeze in 2011. In November 2020, the brand also launched a contactless dispenser to help gift restaurants a hygienic way. to allow customers to distribute their own condiments.

Looking to the future, Cornell said the company is counting on its multiple new production lines, which he hopes will result in a 25% increase in production, or 12 billion packs of ketchup per year.

Packets of ketchup are simply the latest shortage in the wake of the pandemic. It all started with everyone running out to buy toilet paper at the start of the lockdown. Meat shortages quickly became widespread, and home bakers also bought flour and yeast en masse.

Oddly enough, refrigerators were also scarce, as were mason jars since people started pickling as a hobby. Even pepperoni was not spared, and the price of the popular pizza topping started to rise over the summer.

If you can’t find your beloved ketchup pouches or bottles, know that making your own is always an option.

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