There’s a Black Market for Ketchup Packets Now

There’s a Black Market for Ketchup Packets Now
Screenshot: Shoshana Wodinsky (Facebook Marketplace)

If you’re one of the fast-food aficionados left reeling from stories of the current U.S.-wide ketchup shortage, then get a squirt of this. People are now putting their unopened packets up for sale across eBay and Facebook Marketplace right now, for prices ranging from $1 per pack to over $1,000 for just a few.

The trend was first noticed by the Wall Street Journal, which interviewed some of the sellers taking advantage of the ketchup crisis, like an Indianapolis woman who sold off 20 packets for $10 dollars (reasonable!) and a man from Illinois that tried selling single packets off for $5 each (???). According to the Journal, the latter’s listing read: “There’s a shortage. Don’t try to lowball me, I know what I’ve got.”

He’s not wrong. Until Big Ketchup can get its sweet red sauce back on the market, there’s no rules that limit how much you can charge for that old Heinz packet that’s probably sitting in your kitchen cabinet right now. One eBay listing, for example, starts bids for a set of five packets at $8— a dollar and change for each one. Another listing for two “tear-to-squeeze” packets starts at about $4 each. On Facebook Marketplace right now, there’s a seller in Scranton offering a set of three for $1,500. (“The news told me there is a ketchup shortage so I’ve decided to sell my stocks,” his post reads.)

It’s not clear how long the Great Ketchup Crisis, sparked by disruptions in the supply chain due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, will continue. Heinz told the Journal that it’s “working around the clock” to build out new productions lines to meet demand, and Red Gold announced it was working with food chains to find new ways to get ketchup out to customers. Let’s just hope things don’t get bad enough where paying $500 for a squeeze of the stuff seems like a reasonable idea.