Last year, the world panicked when there was a reported shortage of toilet paper. Well, not only has that problem since returned, but there is now another crisis that gripping kitchen tables and restaurants in the United States: America is running out of ketchup.
According to the Wall Street Journal, condiment king Heinz owns 70% percent of the ketchup retail market. So when the pandemic hit and eateries resorted to greater amounts of take-out orders, diners were apparently taking many more packets of ketchup with them than needed as well. CDC guidelines demanded restaurants employ single-use disposable items. But the double-whammy of a globally reduced workforce and the recent Suez Canal blockage really has America’s food pros concerned.
Steve Cornell, Kraft Heinz’s president of Enhancers, Specialty and Away from Home Business Unit, has asked that restaurants be patient as they scramble to enhance their food manufacturing resources and supply chain. “We’re busy doing everything we can,” he told WSJ. On top of already added shifts, Heinz plans to open more manufacturing lines this month and hopes to boost production of ketchup packets by 25%, from approximately 9.6 billion to 12 billion before the end of 2021.
In the meantime, restaurant owners have been rationing generic brands into small single-use cups, or they are raiding warehouses like Costco in search of bulk substitutes. Officials of the Lone Star State have even started amending recommended operating guidelines to food establishments, telling them to “[p]rovide condiments only upon request, and in single use, non-reusable portions.”
While it might seem trivial in the moment, the runs on ketchup and toilet paper are presenting as omens of potentially larger problems of scarcity. Per a Bloomberg report, pepperoni, the pizza topping champ, has been facing the crunch, too, since August of last year. And there is no end in sight as to when inventories of these basic goods will return to their normal quantities.
But Chicagoans probably couldn’t care less.