Covid USA: Supply shortages hit single-serving ketchup packets as restaurants switch to takeaway

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Ketchup has become the latest product to be hit by a pandemic-related shortage, with packages from market leader Heinz in shortage after many restaurants switch to takeout – and COVID-19 security measures keep shared bottles off tables.

Restaurant chains across America are struggling to get their hands on packages of the red stuff, forcing many to switch to generic alternatives or pour the spice from large tubs into smaller containers, according to the Wall Street Journal

The shortage is because Heinz, which accounts for 70 percent of the US tomato ketchup retail market, has struggled to keep up with the spike in demand over the past year.

Ketchup has become the latest product to be hit by a pandemic-related shortage, with packages from market leader Heinz in short supply after many restaurants take-out only and COVID-19 security measures continue to keep shared bottles off the table

Ketchup has become the latest product to be hit by a pandemic-related shortage, with packages from market leader Heinz in short supply after many restaurants take-out only and COVID-19 security measures continue to keep shared bottles off the table

The rise began when stay-at-home orders were first issued in the spring of 2020, prompting Americans to stock up on household items.

Restaurants across America also closed, with many turning to takeout and delivery only to keep afloat.

This meant that restaurants began handing out single packets of ketchup along with their orders, rather than just having a bottle on the table for customers dining in their restaurant.

As a result, retail ketchup sales are up about 15 percent between 2019 and 2020, to more than $ 1 billion, according to Euromonitor.

Now, even with many restaurants reopening for indoor and outdoor dining, COVID-19 security measures mean that bottles shared by different customers should still not be used.

Guidance from many local health departments is advising restaurants to offer shared condiment classes with even Texas – where Governor Gregg Abbott last month pledged to “ open Texas 100 percent ” and lift the mask mandate – recommending “ one-time, non-reusable servings. ”

Chris Fuselier, owner of Denver-based Blake Street Tavern, said he “ hunted high and low ” to get his hands on ketchup, and was shocked last month when none of the vendor’s condiments arrived.

Restaurant chains across America are doing their best to get their hands on packages of the red stuff.  Diners enjoying single-use sachets at a Los Angeles restaurant

Restaurant chains across America are doing their best to get their hands on packages of the red stuff.  Diners enjoying single-use sachets at a Los Angeles restaurant

Restaurant chains across America are doing their best to get their hands on packages of the red stuff. Diners enjoying single-use sachets at a Los Angeles restaurant

The restaurant had to opt for a generic version and is apologizing to customers about the problem.

But in addition to the limited supply, the shift will cost hard-hit restaurants more, with single-use packages more expensive than bulk.

This is because the price of ketchup has also skyrocketed over the past year as demand outstrips supply, with package prices up 13 percent from January 2020, the Journal reported.

Steve Cornell, president of Enhancers, Specialty and Away from Home Business Unit at Kraft Heinz, said the company is opening new production lines to meet demand

Steve Cornell, president of Enhancers, Specialty and Away from Home Business Unit at Kraft Heinz, said the company is opening new production lines to meet demand

Steve Cornell, president of Enhancers, Specialty and Away from Home Business Unit at Kraft Heinz, said the company is opening new production lines to meet demand

Long John Silver’s, which runs about 700 fast food chains across America, told the Journal that it spends an extra $ 500,000 annually on ketchup than in pre-pandemic times.

Heinz said it is boosting production and developing new innovations to meet rising demand.

Steve Cornell, president of Kraft Heinz’s Enhancers, Specialty and Away from Home Business Unit, told the Journal that the company is opening new production lines, starting with two in April.

This will boost production by about 25 percent to create more than 12 billion packages per year of the condiment, he said.

The company has also ramped up shifts in its factories and shifted production of some varieties to making more single packets.

“We’re busy doing everything we can,” Cornell told The Journal.

Heinz has also developed a no-touch ketchup dispenser to find alternatives to the single-serve packages that can still be safe during the pandemic.

This is just the latest in a long line of products whose supply chains were badly hit by the pandemic.

COVID-19 security measures mean bottles shared by different customers still aren't allowed even as restaurants across America have reopened

COVID-19 security measures mean bottles shared by different customers still aren't allowed even as restaurants across America have reopened

COVID-19 security measures mean bottles shared by different customers still aren’t allowed even as restaurants across America have reopened

In March, panicked shoppers began stocking up on groceries as the land came to a standstill and stay-at-home orders were issued.

Essential goods such as toilet rolls, cleaning products, bottled water and canned food were particularly scarce, and scenes of supermarkets with empty shelves became a common occurrence.

In the summer, a shortage of soft drinks followed due to a lack of aluminum cans, caused by a change in drinking habits during the pandemic.

With bars and restaurants closed, shoppers bought cans of beer and seltzers like White Claw to drink in the safety of their homes.

This had a knock-on effect on the supply of cans for soft drink companies, with Dr Pepper reporting a shortage in August.

Meat supply chains were also impacted by the pandemic as several meat packing plants had to shut down due to widespread virus outbreaks among the workforce.