The New Shortage: Ketchup Can’t Catch Up


Supply chain problems are reaching a far corner of the business universe: ketchup packages.

After enduring a year of closures, employee safety fears and openings from start to finish, American restaurants now face a nationwide tomato sauce shortage. Restaurants are trying to secure the table staple after Covid-19 revolutionized the world condiment order. Managers are using generic versions, pouring bulk ketchup into individual cups, and hitting the aisles at Costco looking for substitutes.

“We’ve been looking everywhere,” said Chris Fuselier, owner of the Denver-based Blake Street Tavern, which has struggled to hold ketchup stocks for much of this year.

The pandemic turned many tabletop restaurants into take-out specialists, making individual packages of tomato sauce the main seasoning currency for both national chains and family-friendly restaurants. Package prices have risen 13% from January 2020, and their market share has exploded at the expense of tabletop bottles, according to restaurant business platform Plate IQ.

Even the fast food giants are asking for packages. Long John Silver’s LLC, a chain of nearly 700 units, had to seek ketchup from secondary suppliers due to high demand. The industry’s pandemic shift to packages has driven up prices, costing the Louisville, Kentucky-based company half a million dollars more, executives said, as individual service is more expensive than volume.

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