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Kraft Heinz to raise ketchup output...

09/04/2021 - François-Xavier Branthôme
…as Covid-related demand creates shortage

Kraft Heinz is reportedly planning to increase ketchup production in the US as restaurants across the country face a shortage in supply as the pandemic has forced more people to cook at home or order takeaways from what would normally be sit-down eateries.

 Ketchup is the next COVID-19-related shortage.

The bottled variety is not impacted as much as the small individual packages restaurants give with pickup, takeout and delivery orders. The shortage is hitting America's most popular brand, Heinz, at chains like Long John Silver's and Texas Roadhouse, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

The ketchup conundrum strikes at a cornerstone of American diets. The tomato spread is the most-consumed table sauce at U.S. restaurants, with around 300,000 (short) tons sold to food-service last year, according to research firm Euromonitor. Even more is eaten at home, and the pandemic helped push retail ketchup sales in the U.S. over USD1 billion in 2020, around 15% higher than 2019, Euromonitor data showed.
Kraft Heinz Co. is ketchup’s king, with the research firm saying Heinz holds nearly 70% of the U.S. retail market for the condiment.

The company confirmed to USA TODAY on April 6 that it is working to increase supplies, such as adding two new manufacturing lines that will increase production by about 25% for a total of more than 12 billion packets a year. Kraft Heinz already is running extra shifts at plants, and cut back on some varieties to focus on making more single-serve packets.

Steve Cornell, Kraft Heinz’s president of Enhancers, Specialty and Away from Home Business Unit, said in a statement to 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."
The WSJ says single-serve packets of ketchup have become the new norm during the coronavirus-related lockdowns rather than the bottled variant as normally sit-down restaurants cater to more takeaways, both national chains and their smaller counterparts.

Another reason for the shortage is restaurants are using the packets when consumers are dining in, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention's recommendations for restaurants.
"Avoid using or sharing items that are reusable, such as menus, condiments, and any other food containers," the CDC said. "Instead, use disposable or digital menus (menus viewed on cellphones), single serving condiments, and no-touch trash cans and doors."

The prices of the packets are up 13% since January 2020, the WSJ reported, noting the packets’ market share grew at the expense of tabletop bottles, according to restaurant-business platform Plate IQ.

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