- 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.
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)
United Airlines Dispels Complaints That Safety Will Be Compromised By New Pilot Diversity Initiative
- Later this year, United Airlines plans to open a pilot training school that will have a focus on diversity.
- According to a tweet from the company on Tuesday, the school plans to enroll 5,000 students over the next decade, with at least 50% of those students being women or people of color.
- The program has been met with condemnation by some conservatives, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who implied it would lead to increased plane crashes and deaths.
- Amidst the criticism, United has stressed that it is not lowering its safety standards but simply working to ensure that minority groups have more opportunities to become pilots.
United’s New Diversity Initiative
United Airlines is launching a new school that it hopes will increase diversity among pilots.
“Our flight deck should reflect the diverse group of people on board our planes every day,” the company said Tuesday on Twitter in a statement announcing the news. “That’s why we plan for 50% of the 5,000 pilots we train in the next decade to be women or people of color.”
Applications for the school are currently open, and United plans to enroll 100 students this year, with its first class of 20 beginning this summer. Reportedly, United and JPMorgan Chase will each provide $1.2 million in scholarships to incoming students.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 94% of pilots and flight engineers are white. That data also indicates about as many are men.
United itself said only about 7% of its pilots are women and only 13% aren’t white. With those stats in mind, United said it’s working with three historically Black colleges and universities to help drive recruitment.
United Faces Criticism From Tucker Carlson and Others
Since its announcement, United has had to contend with a hefty amount of pushback, as a number of people have replied to the company’s initial tweet by questioning the diversity initiative and its relationship with passenger safety.
“How about you hire experienced, good pilots regardless of race or gender?” one person asked. “I don’t care about a pilot’s race — I care if he or she can land the damned plane safely.”
How about you hire experienced, good pilots regardless of race or gender? I don’t care about a pilot’s race – I care if he or she can land the damned plane safely.— mindflayer (@mindflayer) April 6, 2021
In order to achieve this goal, will the acceptance criteria be different for women and minorities?— Bob smith (@Bobsmit48385443) April 6, 2021
Wednesday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson even implied that the initiative could lead to increased plane crashes and deaths.
“An airline pilot transports hundreds of people at a time in a thin-walled metal tube going nearly 600 miles an hour 35,000 feet off the ground. Flying a commercial airliner is dangerous,” Carlson said. “Like performing heart surgery, no matter how many times you’ve done it, it is inherently high stakes. People die if you screw up. In the airline business, as in medicine, not killing people is all that matters. So how will racial and gender quotas make United Airlines safer?”
“The CEO of United Airlines is saying that we need to replace the pilots currently flying airplanes because they’re the wrong skin color,” he later added. “Only diseased people think like this.
Factually, Carlson is wrong. United has made no indication that it is planning to replace current pilots; rather, it is likely responding to a long-term shortage of pilots, as many are soon set to begin retirement.
United has defended its program multiple times over the last couple of days.
“All the highly qualified candidates we accept into the Academy, regardless of race or sex, will have met or exceeded the standards we set for admittance,” United said in a clarification on its safety standards.
All the highly qualified candidates we accept into the Academy, regardless of race or sex, will have met or exceeded the standards we set for admittance. ^MJ— United Airlines (@united) April 6, 2021
Others on Twitter have also dispelled the criticism around the pilot program, with one user saying, “@TuckerCarlson missed the point, again. @united is training pilots to a level of safety of all other pilots. The standard isn’t dropping, the opportunity for underserved segments of the population is increasing.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Fox News) (Newsweek)
Florida Governor Denies Wrongdoing in Vaccine Deal With Publix After “Pay for Play” Accusations
- In a “60 Minutes” segment that aired Sunday night, CBS reported that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) gave an exclusive COVID-19 vaccine deal to Publix grocery stores in Palm Beach County weeks before announcing that the chain had donated $100,000 to his political action committee.
- DeSantis and Publix have denied any form of “pay for play” deal, but this is not the first time DeSantis has been accused of engaging in a form of “vaccine favoritism” that had the effect of disproportionately benefiting wealthy, white communities.
- While some have defended Publix’s exclusive distribution deal, many others have noted that Walgreens and CVS pharmacies are much more abundant in the state and also more common in less wealthy communities.
“60 Minutes” Report on DeSantis’ Vaccine Favoritism
A Sunday night “60 Minutes” report on CBS found that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced a distribution partnership with Publix grocery store only weeks after the company donated $100,000 to his political action committee.
While both DeSantis and Publix have denied any wrongdoing attached to the deal, this news comes after the Tampa Bay Times reported that DeSantis was acting as a vaccine gatekeeper by directing doses to wealthy communities — with some vaccination pop-up sites being affiliated with his PAC donors.
It also comes after state Democratic leaders asked the U.S. Department of Justice in February to investigate whether or not DeSantis violated federal law by opening up a vaccination site that was only accessible to residents in two of Manatee County’s wealthiest neighborhoods.
Sunday night’s coverage on “60 Minutes” echoed those concerns, describing Florida’s vaccine rollout as “deteriorat[ing] into a virtual free for all” as “wealthy and well-connected residents cut the line, leaving other Floridians without a fair shot.”
“I imagine Governor DeSantis’s office would say, ‘Look, we privatized the rollout because it’s more efficient and it works better,’” reporter Sharyn Alfonsi said during the segment.
“It hasn’t worked better for people of color,” State Rep. Omari Hardy (R) replied. “Before, I could call the public health director. She would answer my calls. But now if I want to get my constituents information about how to get this vaccine I have to call a lobbyist from Publix? That makes no sense. They’re not accountable to the public.”
Hardy’s statement is notable because, as “60 Minutes” pointed out during the segment, poorer communities in Palm Beach County — where Publix was granted exclusive rights to distribute COVID-19 vaccines — do not have a Publix. In fact, for some in the county, the nearest Publix is around 30 miles away.
The segment also aired a confrontation between Alfonsi and DeSantis from last month in which DeSantis called the donation report “wrong” and “a fake narrative.”
“I met with the county mayor,” DeSantis told Alfonsi. “I met with the administrator. I met with all the folks in Palm Beach County, and I said, ‘Here’s some of the options. We can do more drive-thru sites. We can give more to hospitals. We can do the Publix.’ And they said, ‘We think that would be the easiest thing for our residents.’”
“The criticism is that it’s pay-to-play, governor,” Alfonsi said.
In a voiceover, Alfonsi then said Melissa McKinlay, the county commissioner in the Glades, never met with DeSantis about the Publix deal.
“The irresponsible suggestion that there was a connection between campaign contributions and our willingness to join other pharmacies in support of the state’s vaccine distribution efforts is absolutely false and offensive,” Publix said in a statement to CBS.
This is not the first controversial donation to be connected to Publix. Earlier this year, it was learned that Heiress Julie Jenkins Fancelli donated $300,000 to fund the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
DeSantis Condemned Online
On Monday, “DeSantis,” “Publix,” and “Walgreens and CVS” all became top-trending U.S. topics on Twitter.
Many condemned DeSantis for the Publix deal while arguing that it would have made more sense for other pharmacies, such as Walgreens and CVS, to lead the charge in vaccine distributions.
Others like Jesse Hunt, communications director for the Republican Governors Association, said, “60 Minutes makes the same mistake the dozens of national outlets have made when it comes to Ron DeSantis and Florida.”
“Publix was the first retail pharmacy ready to handle this massive undertaking & it’s objectively one of the most trusted & respected companies in America.”
Still, many were quick to argue Hunt’s claim, including Rep. Hardy.
“But they are typically not located in communities of color. So when he tried to make Publix the sole distributor in PBC, he was trying an approach that he knew would leave out people of color in Palm Beach County. This was a textbook example of systemic racism at work.”
But they are typically not located in communities of color. So when he tried to make Publix the sole distributor in PBC, he was trying an approach that he knew would leave out people of color in Palm Beach County. This was a textbook example of systemic racism at work.— Rep. Omari Hardy (@OmariJHardy) April 5, 2021
Delta, Coca-Cola, and Apple Join List of Companies Speaking Out Against Georgia’s New Voting Restrictions
- Dozens of companies have now condemned restrictive voting bills flowing through legislative chambers in at least 43 states, with many specifically singling out Georgia’s passage of one such bill last week.
- Over 70 Black executives for major U.S. companies began urging other businesses to fight back on Tuesday.
- Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola, and Apple all joined the effort on Wednesday by condemning Georgia’s new voter law, while major players in the film and sports industry have announced plans or considerations to pull out of the state.
- In a CNBC interview Wednesday evening, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) accused the companies of making blanket criticisms without indicating what parts of the law they oppose, though CNBC’s anchors quickly outlined several specific aspects of the law that companies have criticized.
Black Execs Form Coalition Against Voter Suppression
More major companies are speaking out against GOP-led efforts to restrict voting access across the country, following the lead of more than 70 Black executives who signed a letter Tuesday urging businesses to take action.
Despite growing frustrations from consumers, many corporations were largely silent last week when the Georgia state legislature passed a massive overhaul of its election laws.
That newly-formed law enacts stricter voter identification requirements for submitting and returning absentee ballots. Counties can also now choose to only offer a single drop box location if they want, and drop boxes will be shut down on the last four days of voting. The law also makes it a misdemeanor to directly hand out food or drinks to voters waiting in line at polling sites.
Georgia isn’t alone here. According to Axios, at least 42 other states are working to restrict voting access.
With that in mind, Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, one of the leaders of the coalition of Black executives, wrote in Tuesday’s letter, “When the [Georgia] law passed, I started paying attention.”
“There seems to be no one speaking out,” he added. “We thought if we spoke up, it might lead to a situation where others felt the responsibility to speak up.”
As The New York Times noted, while some Georgia-based companies like Delta, Coca-Cola, and Home Depot offered general statements in support of voting rights, “none took a specific stance on the bills.” That also included Merck.
“This is about all Americans having the right to vote,” said former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, who is leading the coalition of Black executives alongside Frazier. “But we need to recognize the special history of the denial of a right to vote for Black Americans. And we will not be silent.”
That coalition has since called on corporate America to publicly reject proposed voting laws that could disenfranchise Black voters. It’s also called on companies to use their influence, money, and lobbyists to hold lawmakers accountable.
The group itself appears to be the first time that this many powerful Black executives have joined forces to call out other companies for not standing up for racial justice.
More Companies Speak out
A domino effect of companies speaking out began to appear by Wednesday, beginning with Delta Airlines.
After facing a potential consumer boycott for not taking a stronger stance on the Georgia voting bill, CEO Ed Bastian released a statement that read, “I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.”
“The right to vote is sacred,” Bastian added. “It is fundamental to our democracy and those rights not only need to be protected, but easily facilitated in a safe and secure manner.”
“Since the bill’s inception, Delta joined other major Atlanta corporations to work closely with elected officials from both parties, to try and remove some of the most egregious measures from the bill. We had some success in eliminating the most suppressive tactics that some had proposed.”
More drastically, the director of an upcoming Indiana Jones movie, James Mangold, and Star Wars icon Mark Hamill both announced that they will no longer film in Georgia.
Last week, the executive director of Major League Baseball said he’s considering whether or not to move games out of the state. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he would “strongly support” such a plan.
Gov. Kemp Fires Back
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) spoke about the wave of companies that have now condemned his state’s new election law in an interview Wednesday evening.
“Specifically for Delta, they did not express any reservations about the final products of this bill,” Kemp said on CNBC. “It wasn’t until a couple of days after we signed it, after the political pressure, that Ed Bastian is now putting out a statement… quite honestly, nothing he said yet is pointing to any specific points in the bill that are causing suppression or any of those things because it doesn’t exist.”
Kemp repeated his point of not having seen any specific criticisms multiple times in the interview, even though CNBC’s anchors mentioned cited complaints from Frazier and others.
In fact, Kemp claimed multiple times in the interview that the bill actually expands voter access in Georgia.
“Governor, [these companies] don’t think so though,” anchor Sara Eisen said at one point. “No matter how much you say that. They’ve come out against it, and they’re going to fight it. And what we saw a few years ago with the LGBT bathroom bill rules, was that corporations are very powerful and once they start threatening boycotts of the state, your state, your predecessor reversed on the rules. So you’re going to deal with the corporate backlash. How far are you willing to take it?”
“Look, I’m glad to deal with it,” Kemp said before once again claiming he had not seen any specific complaints from corporations.