There's Something Going on With Ketchup

It may not be what you want to hear right now. In fact, it may not be something you ever want to hear, regardless of the time — but there's something going on with ketchup. With much of the world still very much reeling from a global pandemic, ketchup packets have been increasingly hard to come by. So much so, some ketchup insiders suggest there's a global shortage of the common table condiment.

As restaurants begin to open up post-lockdown, they're having an increasingly hard time getting packets from distributors. Some major fast-food chains are even having to uproot their processes to make other arrangements in order to fulfill the needs of their customers. One executive from Long John Silver's told the Wall Street Journal that in most cases, single-serving ketchup packets are spendier than buying the squashed tomatoes in bulk.

"Everyone out there is grabbing for ketchup," Long John's marketing head Stephanie Mattingly told the paper.

In the same vein as McDonald's Szechaun Sauce, there's suddenly a new aftermarket for ketchup packets. Direct your browser to eBay when you get a moment, and you'll see the condiment is selling like hotcakes in packet form.

One seller is selling three packets is listing three packets for $9.99. "CHEAP!! GENUINE HEINZ," the listing's heading reads. If you're going to buy from this particular seller — who has perfect feedback, mind you — you can expect to spend another $3.95 in shipping costs.

The sold listings continue to tell the tale. 50 packets in one place for $9.99, a much better deal than the GENUINE HEINZ we previously pointed out. Another listing has 100 ketchup packets — and 100 mustard, for that matter — for $24.95. That one even includes free shipping.

Companies like Heinz are well-aware of the shortage, making personnel changes so that they can meet the demand. "We're busy doing everything we can," Heinz ketchup packet boss Steve Cornell told the Journal.

Cornell oversees Kraft Heinz's Enhancers, Specialty, and Away from Home branch, those responsible for special packaging like the fast-food packets very much in demand.


Local health regulations have a major part in leading the shortage, with most states suggesting restaurants use only single portions of condiments so that there's less equipment for patrons to use and potentially further spread COVID-19. As the Journal points out, even states that have opened restaurants with zero social distancing regulations — see Texas, as an example — are requiring food spots to use packets and other single-serving packets.

Cover photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images