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April 06, 2021

Amid ketchup shortage, Heinz vows to increase production

Officials at the Pittsburgh-based company say they're 'doing everything we can' to solve the national supply problem

If you thought the days of foraging for popular pandemic items at the grocery store were over, think again. A new product has joined the list of staples that have been hard to come by during the past year: Ketchup. 

The country is now experiencing a national ketchup shortage, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. The shortage stems from changes to the restaurant industry brought on by COVID-19, and the problems that it caused for major ketchup maker Kraft-Heinz Co.

The company, which was founded and has still has a headquarters in Pittsburgh, accounts for approximately 70% of the U.S. retail market for kethcup.

Among the restaurant industry changes that have contributed to the shortage is the shift away from in-person dining, which have made it hard to find the individual single-serve ketchup packets that accompany takeout and delivery orders. Even restaurant chains, like Long John Silver's, can't find them, the WSJ reported.

Add to that, the CDC's recommendation that restaurants limit their shared condiment containers – including things like the glass of plastic bottles of ketchup commonly found on restaurant table – in an effort to reduce commonly touched surfaces and limit transmission transmission of the coronavirus.. This may have also driven up the demand for ketchup packets. 

All of this drove up the demand for the single-serve ketchup packets – known as or sachets in the restaurant industry – and caused prices for the single serve condiment to rise by 13% since 2020. 

Sales of bottle of ketchup also have increased by 15%, due to more people eating at home. The U.S. as a whole passed $1 billion in bottle sales in 2020, according to the WSJ.

Kraft-Heinz said it has struggled to keep up. They said they plan to add two ketchup manufacturing lines in this month and it will eventually increase production by 25%, producing more than 12 billion ketchup packets per year.

"We’re busy doing everything we can," Steve Cornell, Kraft Heinz’s president of Enhancers, Specialty and Away from Home Business Unit, told the WSJ.

Other items that have become scarce during the COVID-19 pandemic mostly include household items, like hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes and toilet paper. Supplies of these items dwindled onset of the pandemic, when buying panics occurred.

As the pandemic continued, there's also been shortages for goods, like jigsaw puzzles, yeast for baking bread, bicycles, microchips and recently the cereal Grape-Nuts.

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