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East Tennessee school districts scrambling for ketchup during packet shortage

With restaurants relying more on takeout and delivery, the demand has grown for ketchup packets.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted supply chains and caused shortages for everything from computer chips to toilet paper. Now, another popular item is facing a shortage — ketchup.

Some East Tennessee school districts said they are having a hard time getting packets of ketchup due to supply chain issues. Officials said that as restaurants rely more on takeout and delivery, the demand has grown for packets of condiments to include in bags.

"With restaurants opening up and focused mostly on takeout, the supply of ketchup, mustard and even dressings has gone down for our availability because there's so much demand in the commercial world," said Ryan Sutton, a spokesperson with Anderson County Schools.

School districts across East Tennessee are having to compete with food service companies and restaurants to get ketchup for school lunches.

Heinz, which produces several kinds of condiments, said that it made manufacturing investments towards the start of the pandemic to keep up with the demand for packets.

Officials said that bottled ketchup is not facing much of a shortage, since it is largely due to the increase in demand for packets specifically.