It’s an American tragedy that takes place in under a minute. You eagerly open the warm takeout bag in your hands, the smell of french fries wafting through its package. Everything seems to be there until you dig around the bottom of the bag. Nothing but napkins. Where’s the ketchup?
That experience has apparently become more common for Americans as the country experiences a ketchup shortage and manufacturers race to catch up to increasing demand for single-use ketchup packets during a pandemic boom in takeout dining.
The uptick in ketchup demand has had an influence on the price of packets, which have increased 13% since January 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal. Long John Silver’s, a fast-food restaurant chain, said that the price increase of ketchup has cost the company an extra half-million dollars.
“Everyone out there is grabbing for ketchup,” Stephanie Mattingly, the company’s chief marketing officer, told the Journal.
Restaurants have had to give customers generic version of ketchup since Kraft Heinz, which produces the vast majority of ketchup consumed in the US, is also experiencing difficulty keeping up with demand.
The pandemic has seen a number of inconvenient shortages as people adapted to social distancing and spend more time at home.
Toilet paper and personal protection equipment such as face masks were in low supply when states first began to issue stay-at-home orders, causing widespread panic and confusion. Then as people settled into quarantine, baking yeast and jigsaw puzzles were hot items. Bucatini pasta, for reasons perhaps unrelated to the pandemic, has also been in short supply, causing frustration among home chefs.
As the US continues its massive vaccination campaign, which has seen more than 100 million Americans vaccinated so far, it is unclear whether there will be any more shortages to come.
In the meanwhile, think twice before you try to sell those ketchup packets at the bottom of your kitchen drawer online for cash: Heinz has said they are planning to increase their ketchup output by 25% with the opening of two new production lines this month.