Chain Reaction: Grocery store shelves won't be back to normal this year

Chain Reaction: Grocery store shelves won’t be back to normal this year

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- Can’t find your favorite products at the grocery store? You’re not alone.

The COVID-19 pandemic, trucking shortages, and record-level congestion at ports means it’s harder to keep shelves stocked.

Here’s what might be harder to find this winter, according to IRI, which tracks in-stock levels at leading US grocery chains, big box stores, pharmacies and wholesale clubs.

  • Cooking oil
  • Ham
  • Turkey
  • Bottled Water
  • Carbonated Drinks
  • Breads
  • Liquor

Of course, it also depends on where you shop.

For this weeks ‘Chain Reaction,’ we visited Bamber’s Superette in South Bend where you can find specialty foods sourced internationally. But store owner Gene Bamber says it’s actually been harder to get those domestic items to store shelves.

 “A lot of stuff we’ll have may have been ordered six months ago and it’s just coming in last week for example,” Bamber said.

Shipping prices have skyrocketed and demand is outpacing supply for many grocery stores in Michiana.

 “Oh, in a year’s time it’s gone up about two and a half times. Which is a lot,” Bamber said.

The USDA says there are currently no nationwide shortages of food although inventory may be lower at your favorite grocery store.

As Bamber explains its… there’s a few reasons why, including panic buying.

“Because of COVID, and you baking and you need that vanilla, or you need that pumpkin spice, but your neighbor needs one too and the shelf if full. You know, I’m going to get an extra one,” Bamber said.  “They’ll clear out the shelf because it’s full not necessarily because they need it.”

There are a few other factors that go into why you might not see your favorite products on the shelves this holiday season.

Trevor Strefling is a local supplier who says pretty much everything is taking its turn when it comes to supply chain issues. His job is to get products to the store and try and find replacement items for stores when products are out of stock or unavailable.

It’s not just shipping troubles that’s making things hard for grocery stores, he says labor shortages is also having a big impact.

“My suggestion is not to hoard but shop early,” Streling said. “You gotta understand there’s a lot of moving parts in getting products into the consumers homes. It could be truck drivers, it could be the raw ingredients, it could be the packing. But these things are becoming available. You just need to make sure you’re shopping early and often, and sometimes, you might have to substitute something.”

When grocery shopping in general 43% of consumers surveyed by the Food Industry Association say they are concerned about items they need not being in stock.

That’s up from about 40% in August and 35% in February.

Shoppers are also concerned about the price of their preferred food rising.

“You know, you’re going to eat some of it. It’s just the way it happens,” Bamber said.

Both Bamber and Strefling are confident things will let up in the next year or so. Despite the current unprecedented supply chain issues.

 “Maybe third quarter of next year!” Bamber said.

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