If you listened to mainstream media news reports over the past couple of months, you may think ketchup is going the way of toilet paper and other hard-to-find products when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020. Perhaps you’ve tucked away a couple extra bottles in your pantry.
Leave it to Hoosiers to set the record straight. “There is no ketchup shortage. That is simply not true,” says Becca Yeagy, sales development and marketing manager for Red Gold, an Indiana company based in Elwood, Ind.
Started by the Reichart family in 1942, Red Gold today is the largest privately owned tomato processor in the country, and the second largest manufacturer of tomato products in the U.S. overall. The company operates three state-of-the-art facilities at Elwood, Geneva and Orestes. It’s an Indiana treasure, owned, operated and staffed by common-sense Hoosiers. Over 40 Midwest farmers grow tomatoes for Red Gold for its fresh-pack business.
Truth about ketchup
Rest assured there will be plenty of ketchup for your picnics and summer outings, Yeagy says. The confusion developed because of increasing demand for portion-controlled ketchup packets due to changes brought on by the pandemic. Beginning over a year ago, Red Gold made changes to increase its capacity for producing portion-control ketchup servings. It doubled its sales of portion-controlled ketchup from March 2020 to April 2021.
When more restaurants began to open to full capacity as the pandemic eased this spring, but still wanted to use the portion-controlled ketchup option, Heinz, the national leader in ketchup production, indicated it was having trouble keeping up with demand for portion-controlled packets. The national media turned that story into a frenzy, as only the national media can. Soon, consumers feared they wouldn’t find bottles of ketchup at the supermarket.
“There is plenty of ketchup overall,” Yeagy reiterates. “It’s just that the demand for portion-controlled packets and containers has increased. We’ve felt it this spring too, but we are adapting and offering products that should work for those who need ketchup in portion-controlled servings.”
Meet the need
Red Gold currently is partnering with Folds of Honor, a nonprofit foundation that serves families of fallen or disabled service members. Together, they’re co-branding 1-ounce portion ketchup cups used in the restaurant and food service industry. In addition, Red Gold is producing 1.5-ounce ketchup ramekins with pull-type foil tops.
“We’re proud of our farmers, workers and the customers we serve, and we want everyone to know that there is plenty of ketchup available,” Yeagy says.
Like many other things since the pandemic began, the alleged ketchup shortage was a matter of inaccurate or incomplete information reaching consumers. The pandemic affected how the food industry distributes the product, not the quantity of the product itself. Red Gold is doing an admirable job in setting the record straight.
Red Gold produces ketchup from commercial tomato paste, processing and packaging it primarily during the off-season for its fresh-pack products. The company can still produce ketchup even during the fresh-pack season if necessary. However, most of the late-summer and early-fall period is devoted to receiving and processing tomatoes grown by local farmers.
Yeagy notes that while there is also an adequate supply of other tomato products besides ketchup, Red Gold was aggressive in lining up production for the upcoming 2021 fresh-pack season. She anticipates that all three processing plants will be busy this year.
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