First there was the great toilet paper shortage of 2020, now comes the ketchup packet shortage of 2021. Restaurants are struggling to keep individual ketchup packets in stock due to a massive uptick in takeout demand, and picky eaters everywhere should prepare themselves for the worst. They might need to eat their french fries without ketchup and as a mother of two ketchup enthusiasts, I truly understand the gravity of this situation.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that individual ketchup packets are in short supply these days, thanks in large part to an increased demand for takeout from restaurants due to COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in 2020. The switch to takeout rather than dine-in services has seen many restaurants including ketchup packets in their orders rather than diners using multi use bottles of ketchup.
Even when people are dining in restaurants, many are following the recommendation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to "avoid using or sharing items that are reusable such as menus, condiments and any other food containers.”
In July, CNN reported that sales of individual condiment packets had gone up a whopping 300% in 2020, and the nation’s largest distributer of ketchup, Kraft Heinz, is struggling to keep up with the demand. It’s grim news for kids who, like mine, have not eaten any egg, burger, or form of potato without ketchup in years. If ever.
Fortunately there is a little hope on the horizon. Steve Cornell, Kraft Heinz's president of Enhancers, Specialty and Away from Home Business Unit, explained that the company is increasing production on ketchup packets by 25% in an effort to keep up with “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,” according to USA Today. This would have the company producing 12 billion packets this year.
Because the ketchup packets are in shorter supply, this has also driven the price up. The Wall Street Journal reported that ketchup packet prices have risen 13% during the pandemic, while regular sized bottles did not see a price change in 2020. So I guess the only thing we can do is wait. And check our glove compartments for emergency ketchup packets.