It’s no secret that prices at the grocery store have shot up significantly this year. But that’s not the only problem consumers will have to face this fall and beyond. According to numerous reports, when Americans go food shopping this holiday season, there’s a good chance that many of their favorite products won’t be on the shelves.
Product Shortages And Supply Chain Issues Are Causing Empty Shelves
The pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the marketplace, and the Biden administration has already warned that the problems will continue into 2022. The supply chain issues have already caused shortages on water and paper products. Stores have also had trouble keeping wine and liquor in stock. But this is just the beginning.
Making predictions about the upcoming shortages isn’t an easy task, says Publix director of communications Maria Brous, because the situation is constantly changing.
“The industry continues to face shortages during the pandemic, and those shortages on product and packaging may vary week to week,” Brous told TODAY. “In some instances, suppliers have discontinued multiple varieties to concentrate on their best selling items to meet demand.”
Product Packaging Is Also An Issue
According to Oklahoma State University food economist Rodney Holcomb, consumers should plan on seeing a canned food shortage. But not because there’s a problem with the food. Instead, it’s all about the packaging.
Holcomb explained to TODAY that aluminum availability is a major concern, which could make it difficult to find canned, ready-to-eat items on store shelves.
Jayson L. Lusk, head of the department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University, agrees that the aluminum shortage is a problem. He told TODAY it could affect more than just canned goods like soups and vegetables. It could also cause shortages on anything packaged in aluminum, like soda and other beverages.
However, manufacturers do have glass and plastic packaging options. So, it’s possible to work around the aluminum issue. Which might be a more cost effective option anyway since prices have gone up.
“Aluminum prices have increased considerably over the course of this year, increasing over 40% since January and almost 9% in the past month,” Lusk said.
Plan Ahead For Meat And Poultry
When it comes to your Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas ham—or any other meat and poultry products this holiday season—that’s where you should definitely plan ahead.
“Meat and poultry products will still be tight supplies this fall, not necessarily because of a shortage of livestock or poultry but because COVID has processing plants working at less than full capacity,” Holcomb said.
Stew Leonard, Jr.—the CEO of the northeast supermarket chain Stew Leonard’s—says that fresh products have been the hardest to source in recent months.
“We’re seeing a shortage with fresh products, like turkeys for Thanksgiving, fresh fish, and center cut steaks like ribeye and porterhouse,” he explained to TODAY. “We’re having trouble getting New Zealand lamb as there are ships waiting to be unloaded at the dock because there aren’t enough dock workers.”
The stores that ordered their products ahead of time for the holiday season might be able to avoid empty shelves. Leonard says his stores are fully stocked with items like paper products, kids’ snacks, and pasta. And that won’t change in the coming months.
No Need To Panic
As the supply chain tries to work itself out, Lusk says not to panic. There’s no need to hoard products or stockpile meat out of fear. Instead, consumers should simply plan ahead to get the best prices and product selection.
“I don’t think there is reason for being alarmist here,” he said.
Lusk noted that if people do overreact out of fear, it could encourage more shortages. Just like the great toilet paper debacle of 2020.