Grocery shortages are becoming one of the most immediate concerns for consumers all across the nation. The rate of product stock-outs has continued to grow throughout the entire year, but a confluence of factors is making supplies even tighter during this final stretch of 2022 and into the winter. Food manufacturers are dealing with a lot of pressure to ramp up production to meet the growing demand, but many of these producers are facing challenges that do not allow them to do so at such short notice.
“Aluminum availability is still a concern. It may be more difficult to find those canned, ready-to-eat items on store shelves,” said Oklahoma State University food economist Rodney Holcomb. Since the final quarter of 2021, a global shortage of aluminum has been impacting the U.S. manufacturing sector and resulting in a reduced supply of products like tomato paste, canned vegetables, beverages, teas, and soda. The canned goods you may still find are also likely to be far more expensive. “Aluminum prices have increased considerably over the course of this year, increasing over 40% since January and almost 9% in the past month,” explained Jayson L. Lusk, a distinguished professor and head of the department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University. That’s why the best and cheapest option is always to buy glass jars and sturdy lids to do the canning yourself at home.
Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Dr. Pepper, and Charmin are just a few of the brands reporting shortages and cutbacks on the production of some flavors to maintain supplies of their best-selling items. The carbon dioxide shortage and the squeezed supply of aluminum cans hit the supply of carbonated drinks particularly hard. Now we have fewer options available at the stores and we’re seeing prices go through the roof. According to IRI, store stocks of carbonated drinks dropped by 15% in the third quarter, which represents a shortfall of 12 million cans and bottles of soft drinks.
On top of that, crop failures have been widespread this year, affecting a whole host of product categories at the stores. A lack of labor is also one of the reasons why we’re still seeing so many empty shelves. According to Jim Dudlicek, a representative for the National Grocers Association, “there simply aren’t enough people to make the goods, move the goods and sell the goods.” He also noted that supply is being affected by more people cooking and eating at home, especially now that the rising prices of restaurant menus are out of the reach of many financially-strained Americans. Demand remains very high, that’s why we’re having trouble finding grocery staples and some of our favorite products at our local supermarkets.
If there is something that you want to get your hands on, go out there and buy it while you still can because, given the pace at which things are disappearing from our stores, tomorrow it might be too late. Stockpile with conscience and kindness because your neighbor needs supplies to feed their family, too. This crisis is much more complex than it looks, and stocks will remain dramatically lower at the stores for quite some time. In 2023, a perfect storm of events may lead us to a far more nightmarish supply chain crisis than the one we saw in 2020, so we must be prepared for the worst.
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