Here's Why Your Favorite Grocery Items May Not Be on Shelves This Fall 

We talked to an expert on what to expect when it comes to supply chain disruptions.

In black and white, Ritz crackers, Oreos and Gatorade bottles sit on a yellow burst on a blue background.
Photo: Courtney Kassel/Dotdash Meredith

There is nothing more frustrating than craving a specific dish, only to shop for its ingredients and find that one or two of them are out of stock. But a trip to the grocery store may now also mean that products you once found in excess are no longer on shelves altogether, giving an entirely new meaning to the concept of "limited edition."

Food shortages have impacted the entire country and, unfortunately, will continue to do so in the coming months. But will there be a respite from this inconvenient trend? And what type of items will these supply chain issues affect directly?

We chatted with Katie Denis, vice president of communications for the Consumer Brand Association, for her expert predictions, as well as an explanation of what and who this crisis affects directly.

The Source of Supply Chain Issues

Climate change impact and sustainability efforts aside, the root of America's supply and demand issue stems primarily from an inflated market and lack of workforce.

According to Denis, "demand for consumer packaged goods continues to rise at the same time the U.S. supply chain is in crisis, underpinned by a labor shortage that is only growing worse."

"With the cost to make and ship goods setting record after record, the need to ease supply chain pressure has never been greater," she adds, revealing that the Consumer Brand Association's primary mission is to "make a push for the eventual final passage of House and Senate-approved language that would form a government-wide federal program to support the development of new technologies aimed at reducing supply chain risk and provide funding to help strengthen the supply chain and manufacturing sector."

As of now, there is, arguably, a lack of resources and leadership to manage the severe disruption in getting our nation's food from farm to table.

In response, the Consumer Brand Association, in partnership with the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and Iowa State University, crafted a series of recommendations to "improve supply chain resiliency and competitiveness, based on data collected from 25 supply chain thought leaders, published supply chain research, and government and NGO documents."

The mission? To push for an office of supply chain in the federal government to "provide the required leadership to develop sound public policy, monitor its implementation, and assess its results."

The Foods Impacted Most

Though this list changes weekly, sports and energy drinks, bakery items, and packaged cookies and crackers top the list of foods most affected by these delays and shortages.

"The total out-of-stock rate for food and beverage is currently at 11%," Denis reveals, who cites data from Information Resources, Inc; the agency tracks and reports numbers on a weekly basis.

Consumers can also use this website as a tool to forecast any out-of-stock issues they may run into before their next trip to the grocery store. Of course, the easiest thing to do is call local businesses in advance and ask about availability. Some stores like Trader Joe's will even set a few items aside if you pick them up by the end of the day.

The Remedy

There is no quick fix to solve economic disasters overnight, but Denis and her team are committed to advocating for the aforementioned policies that will establish a leadership team and a more streamlined tracking process. The company's goal is to also allow quick, easy, and safe substitutions for any ingredient that may be stalled or depleted during harvesting and/or manufacturing.

"We saw this work successfully during the pandemic and extending such policies would have a lasting impact on the stability of product availability," she says.

Of course, there is a gray area on what these substitutions may entail and how they're regulated (which would be a case-by-case scenario), but it's a simple step towards not relying on one or two low-yielding ingredients that are stalling overall production efforts.

The Future of Food Shortages

Unfortunately, any sense of "normalcy" doesn't seem to be within arm's reach.

"As additional disruptions continue to hit the world, the supply chain will continue to be strained which can lead to higher out-of-stocks," predicts Denis. "With a workforce shortage coupled with high demand, there is no slack in the supply chain. Events such as the Russian-Ukraine invasion, COVID, weather, and more all create disruptions within the supply chain."

Denis added, "Instead, it's still urgent to implement key supply chain policies, such as establishing a federal office of supply chain to enhance visibility, that will help us be prepared for the next disruption."

So when you see that case of RedBull or your favorite whole-grain cracker, it may be in your best interest to stock up. You may not know if it will be there the next time you wander the aisles and think, "Where is everything I love and need?"

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