Ketchup packets could be the next toilet paper as the pandemic has resulted in a nationwide shortage of the popular condiment at restaurants, fast food joints, and most importantly movie theaters. Though bottled ketchup can still be found rather easily in grocery stores, the small individual packets handed out to customers at restaurant chains like Long John Silver's and Texas Roadhouse are starting to come up short with America's most popular brand, Heinz, struggling to keep up with the demand. So that means no ketchup on your movie theater hot dog or hamburger.
On Tuesday, Kraft Heinz has confirmed that the company is working to increase supplies. This includes adding new manufacturing lines to increase the production of ketchup packets by about 25%, ultimately producing more than 12 billion packets per year. Steve Cornell from Kraft Heinz also told USA Today that the company "made strategic manufacturing investments at the start of the pandemic to keep up with the surge in demand for ketchup packets driven by the accelerated delivery and take-out trends."
In other words, the pandemic played a big part in draining the ketchup packet supply at Heinz. Since the start of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations for eating at restaurants include the use of disposable items when possible. This has left many Americans ignoring that bottle of ketchup placed on the table and instead of going for a few handfuls of those Heinz ketchup packets. And when it comes to movie theater hot dogs, the packet is the only way to go.
"Avoid using or sharing items that are reusable, such as menus, condiments, and any other food containers," the CDC's guidelines read. "Instead, use disposable or digital menus (menus viewed on cellphones), single serving condiments, and no-touch trash cans and doors."
Another food item that experienced a pandemic shortage recently is Grape-Nuts cereal. The breakfast food had been out of stock for months, and the shortage just finally came to an end last month with boxes of Grape-Nuts making their way back into stores. Customers who paid inflated prices for the cereal during the shortage may also be eligible for reimbursement from Post Consumer Brands.
"It became abundantly clear during the shortage that Grape-Nuts fans are 'Nuts for Grape-Nuts,'" Kristin DeRock, Grape-Nuts brand manager at Post Consumer Brands, said in a statement at the time. "So much so that some of our loyal super fans were willing to pay extreme prices just to ensure they wouldn't be without their favorite crunchy cereal."
Still, it was the toilet paper that saw the worst shortage of them all around the start of the pandemic last year. With customers buying the toilet tissue in bulk, stores everywhere were left with completely empty toilet paper aisles as people struggled to find a single roll to take home. Fortunately, Charmin and all of the other toilet paper brands are pretty well stocked again these days, but as we're now seeing with the ketchup, we aren't out of the woods with the shortages yet.
The prices of the ketchup packets have also reportedly gone up by 13% since January 2020. In November, Heinz introduced a new no-touch ketchup dispenser as another option for restaurant patrons to help keep up with the heavy demand for the condiment. This news comes to us from USA Today.