Restaurants Struggle to Keep Ketchup in Stock

Thanks, COVID
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 10, 2021 6:00 AM CDT
Restaurants' New Battle: a Ketchup Shortage
File photo of Simply Heinz ketchup packets.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

In the grand scheme of a pandemic, it's not so bad. Still, the Wall Street Journal reports on an unexpected hiccup related to COVID—a ketchup shortage. The issue is most pronounced for restaurants scrambling to find supplies, particularly of ketchup packets, which are deemed safer than shared bottles. "Everyone out there is grabbing for ketchup,” the chief marketing officer of Long John Silver's tells the Journal. The chain estimates it has spent an extra $500,000 on ketchup of late, because those single-use packets are more expensive than buying bulk. Industry behemoth Heinz, which controls roughly 70% of the US ketchup market, is "busy doing everything we can," says exec Steve Cornell. That includes extra shifts at production plants.

The story notes that retail ketchup sales were up 15% in 2020, likely because more people were cooking at home. A post at Mashed wonders why Heinz still seems to be in scramble mode when reports surfaced months ago, including this one at CNN, that sales were spiking. In fact, Heinz may pay a price: The Texas Roadhouse chain served Heinz exclusively before the pandemic, but it has been forced to supplement with easier-to-find brands from wholesalers such as Costco. "You can't be loyal forever," says a company spokesperson. One chef in the Journal story sees a potential silver lining to all this: The shortage might prompt people to forgo ketchup. “We like people to experience the burgers in their natural state,” says Mike DeCamp, who has five Minneapolis-area eateries. (Read more ketchup stories.)

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