If you’ve ordered a burger and fries lately and haven’t been given a few packets of ketchup on the side as you normally would, don’t blame the restaurant. They’re not being stingy—chances are they’ve simply run out of America’s favorite condiment. When it comes to those little ketchup packets, most restaurants have.
Why? Blame COVID-19, of course.
America is going through a great ketchup shortage right now, the Wall Street Journal reports. Ever since the pandemic hit last year people have been turning to curb-side pickups and food delivery services in record numbers and as a result, there has been a greater demand for ketchup packets instead of, say, ketchup bottles restaurants would have sitting on diners’ tables. But that extra demand for packet-based ketchup has now led to a shortage.
And that shortage isn’t affecting just independent restaurants, it’s affecting major chains like Long John Silver’s, too. As a matter of fact, the shortage has seen ketchup packet prices skyrocket 13% since January 2020 and pushed ketchup sales to over $1 billion last year.
But what is to be done about the great ketchup packet shortage? For now, restaurants are turning to ad hoc solutions—instead of offering packets some are squirting the red gold into little tubs and providing a serving of the condiment that way. Then there is the industry’s response. Heinz, who dominates the ketchup market in America with a 70% share, says it is planning on opening two new manufacturing lines. It will ultimately increase production to 12 billion packets a year—a 25% increase.
Until then, there’s always mustard.