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Grocery stores see barer shelves as COVID cripples supply chain

Store shelves publix
Posted at 4:40 PM, Jan 12, 2022

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Grocery stores across the United States are seeing supply chain shortages with bare shelves and out-of-stock products ranging from cereal to meat, to eggs, paper goods and produce.

Supply chain experts say the problem is the highly contagious Omicron COVID variant and people calling out sick in all aspects of the grocery process.

Doug Baker, the Vice President of Industry Relations at FMI The Food Industry Association, says the callouts are widespread. “That’s all along the supply chain. It’s not just in the store. Manufacturing and trucking and production and growing and all of that,” he explained.

Baker says that’s compounded by rising costs. The average American family now spends $144 dollars a week on groceries, compared to $113 a week before the pandemic.

“We’re hoping that we will see some normalization of the supply chain around the summertime and that’s with an asterisk because we have to consider what does the pandemic do, how does weather play into it,” Baker added.

At Nature’s Food Patch in Clearwater, General Manager Sean Balsley says he’s never seen experienced anything like it.

“It’s like an ongoing hurricane that never ends,” he explained.

Balsley says his store is being impacted by supply chain shortages but not nearly as bad as the big box stores. His well-stocked Clearwater and Dunedin stores are lucky because as small retailers, they can pick and choose suppliers.

“If one supplier doesn’t have an item, we move on to the next one. When we can get stuff and we know it’s in short supply, we just order a lot of it. Sometimes we even clean our supplier out because we know we will sell it before the expiration date and we also know if we are the only ones who have it, people will migrate here to buy it,” Balsley added.

That isn’t necessarily the case for many big box stores.

“I was in one of the bigger ones who I shall not name and I saw they had a limit on certain products and that’s extreme when you’re telling people you can’t buy a lot because we are in the business to sell stuff,” Balsley elaborated.

There are some ways to beat out the supply chain woes. Baker suggests scanning your favorite store’s weekly ad flyer.

“9 times out of 10 if it’s going to be in the ad, they have that inventory in stock. They definitely don’t want to put something in their ad that they won’t actually have in store,” he said.

Then, plan your meals around the available items.

Experts say you can also call the store where you shop and ask when they get in their shipments. That way you have the best chance of finding the items that you need.

You can also check smaller stores which may have a bigger range of suppliers.

You should also budget for higher prices since grocery costs aren’t expected to go down until mid-2022.