No, you aren’t imagining it. A few grocery stores have bare shelves again, bringing back bad memories of spring 2020.
On social media, empty supermarket aisles and signs explaining the lack of food and other items are common. Several retailers, including Aldi, have apologized to their customers for the shortages.
Food industry analysts estimate that there are several reasons for the dwindling stock, including some issues that affected retailers at the beginning of the pandemic as well as challenges that have cropped up more recently.
According to Phil Lempert, editor of SupermarketGuru.com, we are experiencing the perfect storm.
According to Lempert, the Northeast is currently experiencing some of the worst shortages, partly as a result of recent winter storms that have snarled the transportation system, but that could change depending on the weather.
The omicron variant
A highly contagious variant of COVID-19 is undoubtedly putting the food industry under a lot of stress at the moment.
As a result, more grocery store employees are catching the disease and calling in sick, making it more challenging for stores to keep shelves stocked. The new strain has made it harder for stores themselves to source products.
Albertson’s CEO, Vivek Sankaran, said in an earnings call that the company had hoped to recover from recent supply issues, but omicron “stunted that plan.”
On Tuesday, Sankaran said that there are more supply challenges and that these challenges will continue for three to six weeks.
It goes beyond grocery stores, though. Across the entire supply chain of the food industry, workers are getting sick and staying home, affecting food production, manufacturing, shipping, and distribution.
In an earnings call last week, Conagra President and CEO Sean Connolly cited a rise in “omicron-driven absenteeism” among the company’s brands, such as Duncan Hines and Healthy Choice.
The supply chain will likely remain strained for the next month or so as Omicron runs its course, Connolly said.
Additionally, there are workers who have quit rather than become infected with COVID-19.
As a result of the pandemic, Lempert said, grocery stores have become “battlefields,” with employees required to work in person, explain food shortages and new public health measures to customers, and keep themselves and their families healthy while doing so.
Many people left their jobs at the supermarket because of this,” Lempert said.
In a survey conducted by the National Grocers Association, many of its members reported operating their stores with half their normal staff.
As supermarkets compete for new employees, they’re offering better pay, better benefits, and more security, says Lempert.
Severe weather and climate change
The food industry is still concerned about climate change, which is not a new issue. With global warming, severe weather events are becoming more frequent and intense.
Farmers are yielding less corn and soy to feed farm animals, which is affecting the price and availability of meat, eggs, and dairy products.
Coffee fields and other crops are being inundated by heavy rains in Brazil, limiting production.
As a result of the severe weather, food is also harder to move.
Storms in Washington shut down major roads and slowed the shipment of food to Alaska, where supermarkets blamed the one-two punch of severe weather and shipping delays for empty shelves.
Must Visit: USNIB