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There's a Major Shortage of This Popular Pantry Staple

Your next order of fries may not be the same because of supply chain issues.

No matter how well you prepare them, some foods just aren't the same without the right finishing touches. After all, even just a little mustard on your hot dog or mayo on your burger can make a huge difference in flavor. But anyone who is obsessed with condiments should prepare themselves for some bad news: There's currently a major shortage of ketchup, The Wall Street Journal reports. Read on to see why suppliers can't catch up with demand for the pantry staple, and for more important food news, check out If You Have This Snack at Home, Get Rid of it Now, FDA Says.

Ketchup packets are in short supply nationwide.

Five packets of Heinz tomato ketchup sitting on a tabletop

What was once an issue while shopping for hand sanitizer or toilet paper has now moved into the kitchen. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ketchup packets are in short supply because of the boom in takeout business brought on by restaurants being closed for on-site dining for months during lockdowns.

Now, restaurants are struggling to keep the beloved condiment in stock for their customers, with some resorting to individually packaged cups of generic brands purchased in bulk to keep diners happy. "We've been hunting high and low [for ketchup]," Chris Fuselier, owner of Denver-based restaurant Blake Street Tavern, told The Wall Street Journal.

Businesses of all sizes are feeling the effects of the shortage.

heinz ketchup bottle

Ketchup is already the most popular condiment in the U.S.: According to research firm Euromonitor, 300,000 tons of the beloved sauce were sold to food-service last year, and even more was consumed in people's homes. But as restaurants were shuttered during lockdowns, retail sales of ketchup were pushed above $1 billion in 2020, representing a 15 percent jump from the previous year, Euromonitor data showed.

According to Plate IQ, the sauce surge has also driven up the precious packets' prices, which has lept by 13 percent since January of 2020. This has put a pinch on mom-and-pop restaurants and national chains alike, with 700-location chain Long John Silver's reportedly spending an extra half a million dollars to secure their order of packets, according to The Wall Street Journal. And for more on what you should be purging from your fridge, check out The FDA Just Issued a Salmonella Warning for This Popular Grocery Item.

Reopened restaurants still face issues of single-serving condiments.

souffle cup with ketchup names of everyday items

Unfortunately, the return of dining out across the U.S. hasn't done much to help lessen the strain on the supply of packets. Many local agencies still advise against placing condiment bottles on tabletops as part of ongoing health precautions, with Texas officials writing in their guidelines: "Provide condiments only upon request, and in single-use, non-reusable portions."

Suppliers are ramping up production in the coming months.

french fries and ketchup

Fortunately, the shortage may not be felt for too much longer. Kraft Heinz, which dominates ketchup sales in the U.S. with 70 percent of the market share, has already announced that it will open two new manufacturing lines in April, with more to follow. The company says this will allow production to increase by 25 percent and total a whopping 12 billion packets a year.

"We're busy doing everything we can," Steve Cornell, president of Enhancers, Specialty, and Away from Home Business Unit for Kraft Heinz, told The Wall Street Journal. And for more on how the pandemic has affected the food industry, check out This Popular Pizza Chain Just Filed for Bankruptcy.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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