America Faces Another Catastrophe: A Ketchup Shortage


In the beginning of the pandemic, people rushed to grocery market shelves for toilet paper rolls. Now, a year later, we have a shortage of something new. Americans around the world are fearing for their lives and their sanity because of one item: ketchup. During the pandemic, Heinz, the world’s main Ketchup producer, had a shortage of ketchup packets. However, this shortage of ketchup is more frightening than it sounds. The average American eats 71 pounds of ketchup each year!

Ketchup is housed in over 97% of kitchens worldwide, and has even been named America’s favorite condiment. But where did ketchup originate? Many will be surprised that ketchup didn’t come from England, or even France. Ketchup actually originated in China. Originally based from a Chinese fermented fish sauce, it was brought to Vietnam, where it was unsuccessfully replicated by English traders. But the tomato ketchup that we know today was not invented until 1812, by Philadelphia local James Mease, and reproduced by a small company called Heinz. Today, they are the most popular brand of ketchup in the United States, and sell more than 650 million bottles(14 oz) per year.

During the pandemic, restaurants were mainly closed which was a cause of why the production of ketchup packets decreased by a significant margin. However, due to more and more people eating out, Heinz has not been able to keep up with the demand for ketchup packets with the new commodity of eating in restaurants. Numerous fast food chains use Heinz as a direct source for their ketchup packets.

But who does this impact? Well, with less people eating indoors at restaurants, drive thru visits increased by 26% in April and May, and grew to represent almost half of restaurant visits during the pandemic. With many big fast food brands continuing to innovate during an era without eating in dining, companies like Heinz are relied on for pre-packaged condiments that can be easily distributed to customers.

Angry ketchup lovers like french_fry_lover#1 say, “I love using ketchup packets. They are essential while traveling and can be easily carried. Why buy an entire ketchup bottle when I can take some packets from my local fast-food restaurants?” On the other hand, ketchup hoarders such as tomatokiller77 are proud to say that “Ketchup packets are also essential to my everyday diet but in a different way. I need them with every single one of my meals, whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I am proud to come out as a ketchup hoarder.”

Heinz takes up a staggering 70% of the U.S. retail market for ketchup. As a result of the shortage, Heinz increased their ketchup production by 25%. Heinz claims to have their ketchup condiment packet supply under control. Ketchup is essential to an American’s diet. Hopefully, Heinz can take the shortage under control in order to prevent American lives from being ruined.