There is a new shortage affecting the United States, specifically impacting the restaurant industry: ketchup.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the past year of restaurants turning to takeout services and delivery meal options created a high demand for “sachets,” the name for the small packets of ketchup included with takeout meals. Restaurant workers are attempting to get their hands on the tabletop condiment after the switch in demand over the past year. “Managers are using generic versions, pouring out bulk ketchup into individual cups and hitting the aisles of Costco for substitutes,” the outlet reported.
The Wall Street Journal reported:
The pandemic turned many sit-down restaurants into takeout specialists, making individual ketchup packets the primary condiment currency for both national chains and mom-and-pop restaurants. Packet prices are up 13% since January 2020, and their market share has exploded at the expense of tabletop bottles, according to restaurant-business platform Plate IQ.
The condiment is reportedly the most consumed table sauce at restaurants in the United States. Last year, around 300,000 tons of ketchup was sold to food-service, according to research firm Euromonitor. More is consumed in the home, and the coronavirus pandemic helped expand retail ketchup sales in the U.S. to over $1 billion in 2020, which is about 15% higher than 2019, Euromonitor data showed.
Kraft Heinz Co. is “ketchup’s king,” according to the Journal. It holds almost 70% of the retail market in the United States for the sauce. However, during the pandemic, it fell behind with the demand for ketchup sachets. The condiment company is planning to create two new manufacturing production lines this month with more coming in the future. This will up its production by around 25% with over 12 billion packets produced each year.
Steve Cornell, Kraft Heinz’s president of Enhancers, Specialty and Away from Home Business Unit, said restaurants need to be patient while Heinz increases its supply.
The company already created a new invention this year to respond to the COVID-19 market. It made a “no-touch ketchup dispenser” as an option different from the bottles that are shared between customers.
“We’re busy doing everything we can,” Cornell said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention weighed in on the use of condiments, including the cleaning of condiment holders. It released considerations for people who operate restaurants and bars, with updated information in December of last year.
The guidance stated, “Avoid using or sharing items that are reusable, such as menus, condiments, and any other food containers. Instead, use disposable or digital menus (menus viewed on cellphones), single-serving condiments, and no-touch trash cans and doors.”
The Wall Street Journal reported, “Local health departments last year advised restaurants to pull shared condiment bottles off tables for sanitary purposes. Even states that have lifted all capacity restrictions on restaurants are still taking a tough stance on ketchup.”
Texas released health recommendations guidelines as the state reopens. In the document, the government addressed restaurants and condiment use, writing, “Provide condiments only upon request, and in single-use (non-reusable) portions or in reusable containers that are cleaned and disinfected after each use.”
Last year, when the pandemic took hold in the United States, Americans were met with a similarly odd shortage when there was a lack of toilet paper in many retail locations. The pandemic affected many areas of American life, and as places start to reopen, Americans might expect the market to take time to catch up with various adjustments.
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