The Great Ketchup Shortage is Hitting US Restaurants
A few days ago, I ordered delivery for dinner; a fried chicken sandwich and an order of french fries. As I ripped open the paper sack to get to the deep-fried deliciousness, something in the bottom of the bag caught my eye. There nestled amongst the paper napkins and plastic cutlery that I did not request, were four packets of Heinz ketchup. I immediately locked them in my safe along with my family jewels, the deed to my yacht and my Beanie Baby collection. In case you haven’t heard, there’s a national ketchup shortage in our country.
When Covid first reared its ugly head in our country, the shelves were bare of paper towels, hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Now, a year later, restaurants can’t seem to find ketchup packets. Restaurants stopped using big glass bottles of ketchup that sat on the table for customers to use because, you know, there were no customers in restaurants and also, germs.
As takeout and delivery became the norm for restaurants, the need for individual packets of ketchup skyrocketed and now here we are where a packet of ketchup is worth more than it ever has before. The price for packets has increased by 13% since January of 2020 as demand outweighs supply. Heinz, the biggest supplier of ketchup in the United States with almost 70% of the retail market, has announced they will increase production by about 25% to make 12 billion packets a year. Until then, restaurants are doing whatever they need to do to make sure customers get their ketchup fix. Chris Fuselier, owner of Blake Street Tavern in Denver has even taken to hoarding extra packets from Wendy’s and McDonald’s. Other restaurants, including the one I work in, use giant cans of ketchup and then portion it into individual plastic ramekins with lids. This is time consuming and costly, but until the ketchup shortage alleviates, it’s the only option.
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So what can you do to help these struggling restaurants facing this ketchup shortage? Next time you order takeout, if you don’t need ketchup tell the restaurant to save their precious packets of processed tomatoes. Or maybe instead of ketchup on your fries, elevate your game and use mayonnaise or make an aioli. Ranch dressing is also a perfectly suitable option for dipping fries into. Or, if you’re like me and inadvertently end up with four packets of Heinz ketchup, you can sell them on eBay and make enough money to put a down payment on a house or new car. Okay, that might be as ridiculous as spelling ketchup as “catsup,” but if we’ve learned anything during the pandemic, it’s that anything can happen.