Grocery shortages to be expected due to supply chain disruptions arising from COVID

Grocery store shelves bare? These products may be hard to find due to supply chain issues


Can’t find what you need at the store again? You’re not alone. 

As the world reaches the two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, more items are becoming scarce because of a supply chain shortage across the globe.

Supply chain concerns are due to “record-level congestion at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach that has spread to the East Coast, the widespread power outages across China, shortages of truck drivers and service workers, and COVID-19-fueled infections and restrictions,” Tinglong Dai, a business professor at Johns Hopkins University, told USA TODAY in an email.

Shipping prices have skyrocketed, and the demand for items has outpaced the suppliers.

Impact on the economy:Food prices are climbing amid worker shortages, supply-chain problems, extreme weather and more

Before making a grocery list, here is a list of items you might not find:

Ben & Jerry flavors

This frozen treat is usually the perfect dessert, but in an email on Sept. 14, Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever cited labor shortages as the reason for reducing the amount of flavors produced. The company said it will focus on producing its most popular flavors. Phish Food lovers, you have nothing to worry about.

Carbonated drinks

Fertilizer plants, which lead to the production of carbon dioxide, had to reduce their output due to rising costs, causing shortages in food and other products, Per Hong, senior partner at consulting firm Kearney, said to CNBC. “We almost certainly will be faced with a global shortage of CO2 that is used widely. CO2 is used extensively in the food value chain from inside packaged food to keep it fresher longer, for dry ice to keep frozen food cold during delivery, to giving carbonated beverages their bubbles,” he said. 


People have substituted fast food for home-cooked, comfort meals causing chicken to become scarce. In May, suppliers announced a shortage of chicken limiting some restaurants’ menu items and increasing the price in stores. 


Brazil is a supplier of most of the world’s coffee, but the country has been experiencing a drought that slowed the production and transportation of coffee beans.


Households with small children should be aware that diaper prices have increased due to raw material price raises, shipping delays and container shortages, according to Business Insider. Diaper manufacturers, Proctor & Gamble (Pampers and Luvs) and Kimberly-Clark (Huggies) announced price increases in early April.

Fish sticks

customs dispute between the U.S. and Canada has kept the Alaska pollock, used for fish sticks and sandwiches, stored across the border. Cross-border restrictions have halted the transportation of the fish and may cause permanent seafood supply chain issues.

Frozen Meals

Rodney Holcomb, food economist at Oklahoma State University, explained to ABC27 News that concerns over the delta variant have some customers buying more than usual, as we saw at the beginning of the pandemic, just in case there is another lockdown. 

Season of giving:Don’t wait until Black Friday to start your holiday shopping. Here’s why you need to shop now.

Heinz ketchup packets

With restrictions on indoor dining, most people switched to pickup, takeout and delivery orders, limiting the supply of individual ketchup packets. Kraft Heinz confirmed to USA TODAY in early April that it is working to increase supplies, such as adding manufacturing lines that will increase production by about 25% for a total of more than 12 billion packets a year.

Marie Callender’s pot pies

The holidays call for comfort foods – even if you aren’t the one making it. But expect shortages of Marie Callender’s 10-ounce and 15-ounce pot pies. According to parent company Conagra, it would be allocating shipments through Nov. 29 after it “encountered packing material challenges from our tray and carton supplier resulting in a production interruption,” CNN Business reports.

McCormick Gourmet spices

With the holidays around the corner, meals being prepared across the nation may be missing a very important ingredient – seasonings. McCormick Gourmet spices are short of packaging supplies due to pandemic-related shutdowns. Lori Robinson, a spokesperson for McCormick, told CNN Business, “Gourmet is the only product line impacted by this packaging shortage,” but can be substituted with their regular spices. 

Rice Krispie Treats

This lunchbox treat’s production has been “below service expectations,” as stated in an email sent to suppliers. The shortage persists as Kellogg’s workers remain on strike, even though production lines have restarted as replacement workers were brought in.

Sour Patch Kids

In an Oct. 1 email to a grocery distributor, parent company Mondelez says there is “limited availability” on some of their items such as Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish candy, and Toblerone chocolate “due to supply chain constraints.” 

Toilet paper

This is something that isn’t new to the pandemic shortage list, but the industry has yet to keep up with the demand. The toilet paper shortage stems from lumber’s raw material, wood pulp, which is used to make toilet paper. Fox Business reports only 60% of orders are being shipped out. Some retailers, such as Costco, have reinstated purchasing limits to preserve this household item. 

Before the pandemic ketchup squeeze:A year of COVID-19 product shortages and the items we struggled to find

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