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Restaurants Across America Face Ketchup Packet Shortage

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  • Single-serving ketchup packets are in high demand across the U.S., but producers of the condiment are struggling to keep up with orders.
  • Restaurants have leaned heavily on packets for delivery and takeout options amid the coronavirus pandemic, and even when indoor dining began to return, the CDC advised businesses to opt for packets instead of shared bottles.
  • As demand surges, so have prices, which were already higher than bottle options.
  • Heinz, the biggest ketchup producer in the country, has promised to tackle the issue with a 25% increase in production, totaling 12 billion ketchup packets a year.

Ketchup Shortage

Restaurants across the country are struggling to get their hands on a steady supply of ketchup packets, making condiment production yet another facet of the food industry to be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discouraged traditional dine-in services to curb the spread of COVID-19, which forced many restaurants to lean on delivery and takeout. Even when indoor dining opened back up in some areas, the CDC advised restaurants to avoid using shared items like menus, condiments, and other food containers.

That means these businesses were suddenly forced to ramp up their take-out packaging efforts and offer more single-serving condiment options. On top of that, more people began cooking at home, triggering a 15% increase in retail sales of ketchup last year compared to 2019, according to The Wall Street Journal

As demand surges, so have prices, which were already higher than bottle options.
In fact, Long John Silver’s —a chain with nearly 700 stores, told the WSJ that the switch to packets is actually costing them an extra half-million dollars.

The company added that it’s been forced to seek ketchup from secondary suppliers, something Texas Roadhouse chains said they were also forced to do as well. Some restaurant staffers have had to scour wholesale stores like Costco and even turn to sites like Ebay.

Ketchup Maker Responds

Heinz, the biggest ketchup producer in the country, is at the epicenter of the problem since it’s responsible for about 70% of the U.S. retail market for condiments.

The company, however, promised that it’s trying to fix the issue. Just days ago, a Heinz executive told the WSJ that the company plans to open two new manufacturing lines in April, and more after that, increasing production by about 25% for a total of more than 12 billion packets a year.

Heinz already is running extra shifts at plants and cut back on some varieties to focus on making more single-serve packets. The company also invented a no-touch ketchup dispenser to help provide Covid-safe alternatives to shared bottles, but the pressure is on because the demand for single-serve packets is still expected to continue as the country opens back up.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Fox News)

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Amazon UK Destroys Millions in Unsold Stock a Year, Including MacBooks, Face Masks, TVs, and iPads

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Amazon claims the unused products aren’t being dumped in landfills, but an investigation by ITV shows otherwise. 


Amazon Destroying Unused Products

A probe by British news outlet ITV has found that one Amazon warehouse in Scotland destroys millions of unsold products every year.

It’s not just perishable items being dumped. The list of discarded products includes Macbooks, iPads, Dyson fans, unopened face masks, TVs, jewelry, unread books, and more.

One anonymous former employee told ITV that the warehouse’s target was to get rid of roughly 130,000 items per week, and on average, about 50% of the items destroyed are still unused and in their shrinkwrap.

“There’s no rhyme or reason to what gets destroyed,” the employee said.

In its investigation, ITV received documents that appeared to back up the employee’s information, with one showing 124,000 items marked to be destroyed in a single week. Meanwhile, ITV noted that only 28,000 items were labelled “donate” during that same week. 

Where Are the Discarded Products Going?

It also tracked where the items went after leaving the plant. There, it found Amazon taking some electrical items to a nearby waste management system, but it says the rest was tracked to a landfill site. 

Despite that, in a statement, Amazon told ITV, “We are working towards a goal of zero product disposal and our priority is to resell, donate to charitable organisations or recycle any unsold products. No items are sent to landfill in the UK. As a last resort, we will send items to energy recovery, but we’re working hard to drive the number of times this happens down to zero.” 

Whether it’s telling the truth or not, what Amazon is doing isn’t illegal. In fact, the reason why it’s throwing so much out seems to be connected to its highly successful business model.

“Many vendors choose to house their products in Amazon’s vast warehouses,” ITV explained. “But the longer the goods remain unsold, the more a company is charged to store them. It is eventually cheaper to dispose of the goods, especially stock from overseas, than to continue storing the stock.”

Climate Concerns

As climate activist Sam Chetan-Welsh told ITV, “It’s just an unimaginable amount of unnecessary waste. It’s absolutely shocking. Each of these items requires natural resources and carbon emissions and human labor to make.”

“That is why as long as Amazon’s business model relies on this kind of disposable culture, they’re just going to expand, things are only going to get worse, and that is why we need the government to step in and set legislation immediately.” 

The report has raised questions about how prevalent this destruction practice is and continues to be at other warehouses — especially given past reporting. In fact, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “It sounds incredible to me and an indictment of a consumerist society. If it’s as you say, we will look into it.” 

“Obviously, we don’t like stuff going to landfill under any circumstances that’s why we have the landfill tax and landfill credit scheme, and everything else,” the prime minister added. “I’m afraid it’s one of those things we’re just going to have to look into and get back to you.”

See what others are saying: (ITV) (CNET) (The Verge)

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Europe’s Soccer Championship Ends Investigation Into Whether Player’s Rainbow Armband Is “Political”

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The Union of European Football Associations will continue a probe into potential discrimination at its matches in Hungary, which passed a major anti-LGBTQ+ bill last week.


Pride Armband Isn’t Political, UEFA Says

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has agreed that a rainbow armband worn by German soccer player Manuel Neuer is not political in nature, according to the German Football Association (GFA).

Neuer wore the band at two official matches during UEFA’s Euro 2020 Championship and once during a friendly match with Latvia to show support for the LGBTQ+ community during Pride month.

Sunday, multiple outlets reported that UEFA was investigating Neuer’s armband as potentially political, possibly because LGBTQ+ rights have become somewhat of a flashpoint topic since the start of the tournament. Since UEFA does not allow players and teams to participate in “political demonstrations” at events, there were concerns the GFA could be hit with a fine. 

Later Sunday, the GFA said UEFA would consider the armband “a sign of support for diversity and thus for ‘good cause,’” and because of that, the team would not face any disciplinary action.

Discrimination Investigation at Hungary Games

The same day outlets reported the investigation into Neuer’s armband, they also reported that UEFA was investigating two matches in Hungary for potential discrimination.

At the first match, an anti-LGBTQ+ banner was spotted in the crowd. At the second, Hungarian fans marched with banners that called on players to stop kneeling to protest racism. 

Both events come as Hungary passed a bill against “LGBT propaganda” last week. Notably, that law bans the promotion or portrayal of homosexuality and gender reassignment. 

In protest of Hungary’s new law, Munich’s mayor has asked the UEFA to allow the city to light up its stadium in rainbow colors on Wednesday when the German and Hungarian teams square off.

See what others are saying: (ESPN) (The Athletic) (Mirror)

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Initial Unemployment Claims See First Rise Since April as Fed Estimates Faster Inflation Growth Than Previously Predicted

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The Fed also announced that it expects to raise interest rates in 2023, a year earlier than its previous prediction.


Unemployment Claims Rise

The Labor Department reported Thursday that, for the first time in nearly two months, weekly initial unemployment claims increased.

For the week ending on June 12, 412,000 people filed first-time claims. That’s an increase of 37,000 from the previous week’s estimate of 375,000. It’s also the highest that new claims have been in a month. 

Still, there are positive signs that the labor market is improving. For example, while last week’s continuing claims were largely unchanged from the previous week, the four-week moving average for continuing claims fell to its lowest level since March 2020. 

The Federal Reserve is also optimistic about the labor market eventually returning to form despite the country still being short 7 million jobs. Following a two-day meeting, the central bank predicted that the unemployment rate could fall back to pre-pandemic levels by 2023. 

It also expects economic growth to hit 7% this year, up from the 6.5% it predicted in March. 

Inflation Will Grow Faster Than Expected

At its meeting, the Fed said it now believes inflation will climb higher than it had previously estimated just three months ago. In March, it predicted inflation would rise about 2.4% this year. As of Wednesday, it’s expecting a 3.4% jump. 

That comes on the heels of a report from the Labor Department last week that indicated consumer prices climbed at their fastest rate since 2008 year-over-year in May. Like economists explained then, the Fed said it expects this rise in consumer prices to be temporary.

While the Fed expects the prices for some goods and services to continue to increase over the next few months because of issues such as supply bottlenecks, it also said it believes the labor market will continue to grow since the economy is finally coming out of its massive, pandemic-induced downturn in spending.

Still, as Fed Chair Jerome Powell warned Wednesday, “Shifts in demand can be large and rapid. Inflation could turn out to be higher and more persistent than we expect.”

Powell added that the central bank will keep a close eye on inflation and that it would respond quickly if inflation becomes broader or more persistent than current estimates. 

Interest Rates Stay at Historic Lows… For Now

Among other key points from the Fed’s meeting was its decision to move up a projection for an initial interest rate hike from 2024 to 2023. Notably, it also said there could be two rate hikes in 2023. 

That then caused some major stock indices like the Dow Jones to initially stumble, though the markets were more mixed Thursday. That’s likely at least partially because the Fed kept internet rates near a historically low zero for the time being, as expected.

Some Republican lawmakers, such as Sen. Rick Scott (Fl.), have argued that the 2023 projection is too slow, saying interest rates need to go up sooner to prevent inflation from rising too much. 

In testimony before a Senate committee on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the inflation situation is being monitored “very, very carefully” and that while prices are rising, they’re also moving back toward “normal” levels. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNBC) (ABC News)

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