Ketchup Shortage Creates New Market for All Your Old Packets

A ketchup shortage vexing restaurants has fueled a secondary market—an underground trade in coveted ketchup packets.

Diners with the good fortune to have a stash of saved ketchup packets are listing them on eBay Inc. and Facebook Inc.’s Marketplace to make a buck off the pandemic’s latest supply-chain constraint.

Lindsey Cohen, a retiree from Indianapolis, logged onto eBay and posted 20 Heinz ketchup packets for sale for $8 after The Wall Street Journal reported April 5 on restaurants’ squeezed ketchup supplies. Ms. Cohen, who said she amassed her collection during fast-food stops on a recent road trip, typically uses eBay to clear clutter from her house but thought hawking ketchup sounded like fun.

About 12 hours later, the packets sold. “I’ve never gone so far as to sell condiments,” said Ms. Cohen. With ketchup, she said, “I jumped on the bandwagon.”

The ketchup crunch is gripping U.S. restaurants just as they as they are reopening dining rooms closed by Covid-19. Costs for the tomato spread have risen, single-serve packets are in short supply, and restaurant chains are canvassing distributors to locate Heinz, the industry’s top brand.