There's a ketchup shortage, so we may have to take matters into our own Heinz

Screenshot of Mr. Burns from The Simpsons worryingly holding ketchup bottle
Screenshot: TheKeveneveK (Fair Use)

Consider this the first official memo from the Ketchup-Loving Adults Club (KLAC). As the club’s self-appointed president, I’ve got some troubling news: restaurants across the U.S. are running out of ketchup packets.


There are a few reasons for the mayhem, The Wall Street Journal tells us. First, the pandemic forced restaurants to shift from indoor dining to takeout, increasing the demand for individual to-go ketchup packets. Even restaurants open for indoor dining leaned into individual packets in order to comply with COVID-19 guidelines that recommended individual condiment packets over tabletop bottles to curb customer touch points. The shortage has been a long time coming: back in July of last year, CNN reported a 40% increase in single-serve condiment sales compared to 2019. Additionally, stay-at-home orders may have sparked up to a 15% increase in retail ketchup sales, WSJ reports, suggesting that consumers are turning to condiments to scare away their pandemic malaise. Smart, I think.

Here’s the scariest part: Heinz, the superior ketchup (as recognized by KLAC), is struggling the most. WSJ explains that Heinz holds nearly 70% of the U.S. retail market for ketchup, and the company’s being forced to open up new manufacturing lines to increase production and meet demand. In the meantime, some restaurants are settling for... generic brands. Don’t even speak the name of Red Gold.

This concludes today’s official KLAC memo. For further news and ketchup-coated camaraderie, await our ketchup signal. I’m not sure what that’ll look like, but it’ll be pretty unmistakable.

Staff writer @ The Takeout, joke writer elsewhere. Wrangling dogs and pork shoulder in Chicago.



There are so many shortages that seem so random. There is a shortage of the adhesive used to make paper bags. There is a shortage of shipping containers. There is a shortage of aerosol cans which is creating a shortage of a popular spray adhesive used in many industries There is a manufacturer of band uniforms which didn’t need the adhesive during most of the pandemic but now that schools are regrouping they are getting new orders again.