Supply chain disruptions cause food shortages in Albany area grocery stores


Shoppers pushing their carts through Capital Region supermarkets may notice thin shelves while browsing for their favorite products.

Yet unlike in the early stages of the pandemic where certain items were universally scarce – including cleaning supplies, toilet paper and meat – the occasional empty shelves as the country prepares for winter were not the result of ‘panic buying, but rather a complex series of nested issues in the global supply chain.

“The supply chain is in crisis right now,” said Patrick Penfield, professor of supply chain management at Syracuse University.

Global freight transportation is usually a complicated logistics business. Today, a series of bottlenecks along the route used to transport items from their points of origin in Asia further complicates the landscape, from receiving the items at ports, to transporting them on trucks. , then navigation on the last stretch from distribution centers to retailers.

Much of the pinch is linked to the pandemic and further complicated by external factors like extreme weather conditions, Penfield said.

The closure orders resulted in the temporary closure of factories, which created product shortages. Some raw materials are expensive, including those hampered by extreme weather conditions. The culture of working from home has increased demand for certain products, which contributes to increasing costs.

The job market also remains volatile, with a reduced workforce reducing the ability of producers to transport items to consumers at all levels, from factories and warehouses to the retailers themselves.

“It just causes a ripple effect down the supply chain where producers try to keep these things in stock,” Penfield said. “Any product that you need as a food producer has a limited supply to some extent. “

Labor strikes have also led to shortages of certain products, such as Doritos, for example.

Frito-Lay workers at the Topeka factory of the snacks brand went on strike for nearly three weeks this summer, to protest stagnant wages and so-called “suicide changes”. The company makes Doritos, and several local media have reported shortage of chips in the Kansas City metro area. Nabisco workers also went on strike.

Another dynamic is the scarcity of raw materials such as plastic.

PepsiCo Inc. said earlier this month that it would likely raise prices again early next year in response to supply challenges that include everything from a shortage of Gatorade bottles to a shortage of drivers. truck, according to Reuters.

With that comes increased demand for Pepsi products as restaurants and theaters come back to life after the pandemic-induced restrictions are lifted.

The complex dynamics have given rise to a similar story for other products, from canned pet food To juice boxes – or even Jimmy Dean sausage products, which were nearly sold out at several local places the Times Union visited in an unscientific study over the past few days.

Cyber ​​security attacks present yet another challenge, Penfield said.

Due to the unpredictable mole landscape, many growers are temporarily downsizing some products in their portfolio, including Gatorade, which has focused on producing more “basic” the flavours.

“You don’t see the variety you used to see anymore,” said Penfield, “which complicates things.”

Price Chopper / Market32 did not identify any shortages in the Top 500 brands that the chain finds disconcerting, said Mona Golub, vice president of public relations and consumer affairs at the company.

But, Golub said on Monday, “Given the pressure on production and the end of the supply chain distribution, it is a challenge to maintain warehouse service levels on the tens of thousands of products. that we transport. ”

Local shoppers will have plenty of choice as the holiday season approaches, Golub said.

Even if Price Chopper adopts an allocation model – with regular deliveries but at reduced capacity – the company will be able to build up inventory to ensure there is enough supply to get through Thanksgiving.

This is not to say that future surges in commodity prices will not lead to price increases in the future, Golub said, noting that the three-pronged formula of a commodity shortage, problems of labor and port congestion remains volatile.

Hannaford spokesperson Ericka Dodge acknowledged that there may be times when a specific item is not available during transit or due to a reduced variety of suppliers.

“We are constantly striving to find new sources and new supply channels when these challenges arise and encourage buyers to buy only what they need,” said Dodge.

Penfield has said the speed bumps will not last forever and predicts the landscape will begin to settle in the first quarter of 2022.

Not all retailers are feeling the pinch. Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany said its reliance on local producers insulates its customers from global supply chain shocks.

The retailer, for example, offers eight different brands of locally produced pasta sauce.

“Over the past two years of the pandemic, this has been our greatest strength,” said Alex Mytelka, Marketing Director. “Our local sales have increased enormously.

Although their prices may be slightly higher than at large grocery chains, Mytelka believes that many customers initially drawn to the cooperative will stick around.

The cooperative bought 16 percent more local produce this year than the previous year, Mytelka said, an indication that customers are increasingly adopting a local mindset.

“I think it’s here to stay,” he said.

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