Media feast on 'ketchup crisis' in US

Rosemarie Mosteller /

In the United States, restaurants have overwhelmingly switched to take-out food, and more often than not, the typical ketchup bag is included in those orders. This has its consequences: even large manufacturers such as Heinz can barely keep up with the demand for this specific package type.


"Ketchup can't catch up"

From popular newspapers like USA Today to the stately Wall Street Journal, they all bring big stories about the ketchup crisis. And frivolous puns like "ketchup can't catch up" are never far away. USA Today quotes various restaurant owners who are trying every possible solution: from switching to smaller brands to personally filling small jars from bulk containers.


The latter element illustrates that the problem situates itself within a specific segment of the ketchup market: the shortage is particularly acute for the small packs of ketchup used for take-out meals. But also in restaurants where guests are still allowed in - in many states, hospitality businesses are still allowed to stay open - a massive switch has been made to small pouches. After all, that is what is recommended by the CDC, the Center for Disease Control, in the interest of increased hygiene awareness.


Kraft Heinz recognises that it has problems keeping up with the demand for ketchup pouches but says it is not so much a question of not enough ketchup, but rather too little production capacity to manufacture those pouches. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the company has been investing heavily to increase capacity by a quarter each year. 


Rising price and market share

Of course, this impacts the price: the Wall Street Journal reports a 13 per cent price increase since January 2020. According to figures from Plate IQ, a hospitality research agency, the small bags have consequently taken market share from bottled ketchup.


Ketchup lovers in Europe have nothing to worry about as the supply problems in the US have had little to no impact here. The Heinz ketchup for the Belgian market is produced in the Netherlands.