Blue Friday: The scourge of the supply chain
As we head into the holiday shopping season, supplies are far below demand. From raw materials to finished products, a disrupted global supply chain will cause a lot of frustration for holiday shoppers. Why are companies struggling this season? This is the N&O Special Report.
America has never before invested so consciously in the supply chain.
We think about it every time we get to the grocery store and see the empty shelves where our favorite products used to be. We read about it, hear about it, and talk about it all the time.
We know that there are issues throughout the supply chain, and our personal shopping issues can be traced back to different links in that chain.
But we still wonder: What’s the deal with cat food? Where are the sun chips? Why Gatorade of all things?
We searched for answers on some products we heard people had a hard time finding. This is what we learned.
Product shortages often vary by region
When we don’t find a product, we assume shoppers across the country have the same shortage.
That’s not necessarily the case, says Doug Baker, vice president of industry relations for the Food Industry Association.
“During the pandemic, you can spot deficiencies: toilet paper, Lysol wipes. Everyone wants the same things,” Becker said. “Now it’s kind of lifestyle-driven, which is why it’s so different as you look at it across the country.”
Baker said the empty shelf details that consumers see appear regional and based on taste preferences.
For example, Gatorade.
“It might be the most important flavor of Gatorade to you, but it’s not the most important flavor to me in my part of the country, and I have no problems finding what I want,” Becker said.
And even with a shortage, we still get most of what we want.
IRI’s (Information Resources Inc.) CPG Supply Index uses various data, including daily sales information reported by major chain transactions, to track changes in the availability of packaged goods to consumers across the United States. % to 90% during October and November – on par with the rest of the country.
Baker’s advice to shoppers is to plan your meals and most important needs, shop early, and be prepared to make substitutions.
“If they don’t have the brand or flavor you want, you are open to replacing it with another brand or flavor,” he said.
He said consumers are doing a good job of adapting.
“It’s frustrating not being able to buy your favorite brand or your favorite flavor and they understand they need to be flexible and allow themselves to buy a brand they might not be used to, or a flavor they don’t normally buy. A lot of people have embraced that and we need to keep going. in this mindset for the next several months.”
Demand is higher and the workforce is tense
Baker reminds us that high demand for products and a shortage of workers are two of the biggest problems driving the supply chain problem.
Many of us still eat more of our meals at home, so we often shop for groceries.
We also “carry a larger stock of food” in our homes than in the past and “keep this stock” — which means we buy food before we need it, even though we still have plenty of food in our homes already, Baker said.
Why not find cat food, Gatorade and chips
We did some digging to find other reasons behind some of the shortages. We also spoke to Andy Ellen, president and general counsel of the North Carolina Retailers Association, who gave us additional insight into some of the products on our list.
▪ pet food: The hunt for pet food—particularly canned food for cats—can be very daunting, especially for pet owners who have picky pets who only like certain flavors, or who have medical problems that require a specialty or prescription food.
There are several factors that affect the pet’s food supply.
- More people adopted pets During the pandemic, so there has been an increase in the demand for pet food. About 12.6 million American households bought a new pet between March and December of last year, according to the American Pet Products Association.
- The pet food industry has been hit with the same problems as other industries, including Aluminum deficiency can be And labor shortage. PetSmart acknowledged product shortages in October, with a statement to The Boston Herald: “We’ve seen a shortage of wet food manufacturers that has affected our packaged food supply in our stores and online.” The chain, which owns popular online pet retailer Chewy.com, said it is working with manufacturers to increase supply.
- The Suppliers Pet foods are just as stressed as human foods. Reuters reported this summer that the reasons for the shortages include “components, raw materials and processing or downtime at various facilities”.
- This last point is not another cause of shortage, but a sad by-product: pet food consumed by consumers You have I managed to find it price increase Up to 20% since the start of the pandemic, Reuters reported.
▪ Energy drink: There are many issues with Gatorade. On top of what we’ve already heard from Doug Baker about flavor preferences by region, Andy Ellen tells us what he learned from talking to grocery store operators:
- First, the summer It’s the busiest time in Gatorade because it’s hot — kids, athletes, and construction workers all drink more of Gatorade in the summer, Eileen noted.
- then add in Corona virus disease, when people are sick and at home and drink more fluids because they feel bad. “It’s an ingredient that’s being used a lot right now because people are getting sick,” said Eileen.
- And many factories – including those that produce Gatorade – were too Reduce the amount of flavors They’ve positioned themselves for a while, trying to get more products out the door.
Eileen also tells us there was a problem this year at the Gatorade plant outside of Atlanta, so Production was off line For a while, but now they’re back.
▪ Crackers, chips and snacks: On top of the increase in consumer demand and other supply chain issues, labor strikes have wrinkled our access to snacks this summer.
- In July, a 19-day strike in Frito Lay The chip supply was briefly disrupted. This means that some of us may have a hard time finding the exact flavors of Doritos, Cheetos, or SunChips we wanted. The dispute was about forced overtime and 84 working hours.
- In September, union workers clashed with Mondelez International, which owns Nabisco, on proposed changes to alter lengths and overtime rules, which has put workers out for a week. (Mondelez also produces files CNN reported that sour babies, Swedish fish candy, Toblerone chocolate, and cough drops — products with “limited availability…due to supply chain constraints.”
- There was also a strike on a Kellogg Factory that produces Rice Krispies. Kellogg told grocery distributors in October that shipments of Pringles Snacks Stacks, Eggo Pancakes and MorningStar Farms Vegan hot dogs and bacon will be “on specialization” (meaning stores will receive a percentage of what you ordered, but not all), and Rice Krispies snacks will “remain below service expectations” through the end of the year, CNN reported. But the CNN report did not specifically attribute the shortage to the labor strike.
▪ Spices: Eileen said some spices have been less on show this summer and fall, mainly because Packaging problems. CNN reported that a McCormick representative told distributors in September that a supplier of bottles in the United States had closed due to a “COVID related issue,” and that they had not received bottles for several weeks. However, McCormick estimated that it could charge 70% of what he had previously expected. The problem appears to have improved across the country.
▪ Goods and canned products: The shortage of some canned goods is due to increased consumer demand And Because aluminum deficiency (which affects both foods and drinks). weather disturbances and climate change It also affects the global supply of products – a situation that is set to worsen. And the fires that broke out westward this summer, for example, have affected berry crops, Becker told us.
▪ baby milk: Baby formula and baby food shelves have also been on sale in many stores this summer and fall.
Gerber addressed “temporary out-of-stock situations” in a statement, but did not provide reasons for the shortages: “We are adapting and doing everything we can to provide parents and families with high-quality formula and the food and beverage they need. Teams in our factories and distribution centers work seven days a week to deliver More formula, food and drinks to the stores.”
Gerber suggested that parents who do not find stock in stores speak to the store manager to find out when the next shipment will arrive.
This story was originally published November 21, 2021 6:00 a.m.