Things Missing – Supply Chain and Groceries

I have had some first world problems for a while now.

Last night at the grocery store (Kroger chain) there was no iceburg lettuce. Zero. I resigned myself to paying the fifty cents more for the leaf lettuce. Iceberg lettuce has been of pretty poor quality in these parts for some time and I have seen small quantities or none at all as of the last few months.

Berries – I always toss a hand full of berries onto my shredded wheat every morning and the berry selection at the store has been awful or non existent as of late. I’m hoping that Michigan has a fantastic harvest (probably going on right now or very soon) as we are quite fond of the blueberries, apples, peaches, and other things that come from across the lake. We may even take a short road trip over there and pick up a bunch of stuff ourselves. But back to the berries. I have seen blueberries from all over the USA in the store (I always look at where my produce comes from) and also Mexico and a few other places. I wonder if there is some sort of supply chain disruption in berry world.

Anyways, let me know in the comments if you are seeing things missing, and don’t limit it to groceries if you don’t want to.

In industrial distribution world, we are still missing quite a few things but this is almost all a chip deal now. And the good news is that we are doing pretty well for the most part.

28 thoughts on “Things Missing – Supply Chain and Groceries”

  1. A view from across the pond: here in Blighty we have the 2 German owned discount chains Aldi & Lidl. Both offer similar product ranges and (I now suspect) have most of their “Own Brand” stuff sourced from the same companies, just packaged and named differently. Over the last year or so I’ve noted the same products disappear from both shops at around the same time. One I can’t understand is bags of toffees: is there a world toffee shortage – is this something else derived from Ukraine? Another is individual size desserts – both used to sell several flavours (caramel, vanilla, chocolate etc), and both no longer have them in the respective part of the store. I’m sure there are others, but these immediately came to mind as soon as I saw this post.

  2. Also in Dane County–it was hard to find kits for testing for lead paint, and masks for filtering out lead dust. (Luckily the blood test says _I’m_ clean.)

    Larger containers of things: Last trip it was larger jars of 100% peanut butter and 20lb sacks of flour, and I wasn’t systematic about checking what the other empty shelf spaces were.

  3. The pup here gets some pumpkin in his kibble to help his digestion (his mama insists), and I noticed some outages for it late last year or early this year. I think inconsistent would be the best description right now. It’s available but the stock is almost always picked over and where there used to consistently be at least three brands (Libby’s, Kroger’s private label, and organic) there is usually only one of the three. Given that the supply is consistent I’m starting to suspect the problem is either space for each item being limited on the trucks hauling merchandise to stores to reduce transportation costs, or manufacturers or stores focusing limited production capacity on higher margin items. The number of Kroger private label items seems to be dropping in low margin items like canned goods and some dairy but is still generally available for higher ones like deli meat, cheese, ready-to-eat food, etc. I have noticed from time to time that stock on some fresh fruit and vegetables is shorter than what I remember but most items are generally available.

  4. There is a Kroger in Madison? Where? I am in Baraboo, and have never been to a Kroger, and would be willing to drive down and check it out.

    The Baraboo Walmart has huge gaps in the shelves.

  5. @Scott – Pick n Save (or Metro Market) is part of the Kroger chain, not an actual Kroger branded store.

    I would agree with some of the other commenters that part of this could be a trucking issue and a preference to pack what trucks they can get with higher margin items. Iceberg lettuce has to be a loss leader.

  6. We do most of our shopping at Kroger here, and I haven’t noticed any consistent and long-term shortages. Some of the deli meats we like (Boars Head) are in spotty supply, and once in a while we can’t find this or that berry, but that’s all I’ve noticed.

  7. For bulk items, we like to go to a local Mennonite store that sells food items grown by the local farmers. It’s a bit of a drive, but worth it.

  8. The HEB outlets where we shop are usually well-stocked – although I have noted spotty supplies of dried pasta – of all things – over the last few months. We went to one of the local base commissaries yesterday, and noticed that although there was lots of beef in the refrigerated cases, there was little to no chicken.
    Stocks of stuff has been erratic for months – one store will be out, while it will be in stock at another branch. No consistent shortages, like there was in the first weeks of the panic over the Commie Crud, when shelves were stripped bare, especially of TP and canned goods.

  9. I noticed pasta seemed to be understocked a couple months ago. Never totally out, but there’s definitely gaps. Seems to be consistently that way recently.
    No produce issues that I’ve seen.
    I can maybe convince myself the meat section is a bit understocked as well. Nothing gone, but not quite at much as normal.
    An organization I’m on the board for had to cancel a dinner for our big fall event, as the food costs was going to be at least $75 per person, that’s cost not price, so we would have had to charge ~$85 to make any money, and no one would have paid that, since our usual price is more like ~$50.

  10. Well, there is a big gap in auto parts. I have an old Mercedes, and a critical suspension part broke (the shock tower, which keeps the gas-pressurized shock piston from extending out of the car).When this broke, it put a small dimple in my hood. Anyway the dealer no longer stocked them, I go to a favorite Euro parts site and the 3rd party part I wanted was gone – no idea when they would get more, so I had to settle for the next down favorite. It’s not so much what you want, but what you can find.

    Professional shops are noticing this all over the country.

  11. It will be interesting to see what happens to beef prices this fall. In addition to our own consumption, we have a big basset hound who eats ground beef and cooked chicken. Ignores anything else. The rotisserie chicken at Costco, cut up and bagged in plastic, was $12.99 a year ago. It is now $19.00. We all know what ground beef has done the last year and predictions are dire.

  12. “Stocks of stuff has been erratic for months – one store will be out, while it will be in stock at another branch.”

    I’ve seen this a lot and have wondered about it. It might just be the vagaries of who or when a particular truck gets loaded and what’s in the warehouse at that moment, or there might be a deliberate and wel thought out strategy driving it. If the warehouse has 20 boxes of X to serve 10 stores, do you send 2 boxes to each store, which will sell out quickly in all the stores, disappointing all the chain’s shoppers, or do you send 10 boxes to each of 2 stores, disappointing shoppers at the other 8 but satisfying – maybe – “enough” of the shoppers at those 2 stores? And, next week, 2 of the 8 get their share of X and the first 2 stores do without. Kind of like “rotating blackouts” but with groceries.

    By now we’ve becomed well trained to expect random bare shelves, and the grocery biz is nothing but data- and performance-driven, so I suspect some sort of plan is at work.

  13. In my part of Colorado, bread is in iffy supply; both store baked and major brands and has been for a while. Meat is in decent supply and decent price [not cheap, because nothing is cheap anymore] but that is because farmers and ranchers are looking at fuel prices, and probable Federal restriction on the use of fertilizer and deciding they have to reduce their herds right smartly because there will not be enough fodder for the winter. Don’t expect that to last. Crop farmers are making similar decisions, but they will not affect us as much till next summer/fall when the government restrictions will mean no crops. Now is the season when produce is both plentiful and cheap. Things like corn on the cob [pre-Biden 10 for $1] are NOT in good supply. This is also green chile season. It is when we buy several bushels of green chiles, roast them, and freeze them to make green chile and posole for the winter. Usually all the grocery stores have them and store-run roasters outside. This year only Kroger. Especially distressing is that where we have normally bought them for decades, a small Italian grocery, they do not have any. This is green chile country, and we are probably going to have to go out hunting for them this weekend. There are gaps in shelves in pretty much all canned goods and frozen foods. At times, eggs and cheese are low or gone. More First World problems is that one of my daughters uses a specific almond milk in her coffee. It is not always available. I expect there will be an adjustment.

    We take a lot of vitamin and dietary supplements, along with prescriptions [hey, we’re over 70.]. They are shaky in supply and getting shakier. We get them from either Kroger or Wally World. And the gaps in supply of different items at either store are getting bigger. Some things we have not seen for a couple of months.

    Paper goods, primarily paper towels and toilet paper and brand name Kleenex are shaky. There most of the time, but sometimes large gaps in shelves. So we keep a larger stock.

    To be honest, we have considered getting another chest freezer to stock, but then again we do not know how secure electrical power will be in the new regime. We do have an ancient wooden cookstove stored that we can make operational in the kitchen.

    Stay stocked. Keep stocked. And expect that sometime between the putative election [if it happens] and Christmas that it will start getting hungry out. If you are near a city, they are even more critical as far as getting food and other supplies, and the supply chains may not be running. The urban locals may come pouring out figuring that since they are Leftists they deserve whatever you have. Do as you must when they come.

    Subotai Bahadur

  14. I have not noticed localized non-stock, except for a time the “Healthy Choice” chicken rice/noodle soup in 10 can cartons disappeared from Sam’s for a month or so and similar boxes about a yr ago at Costco. My main beef is the 40-50% increase in unit cost for canned soup, 30% for gallon milk and recently 4# packs of butter at Sam’s were $9.75 now are $14.50. Also noted my 3-4# plastic jug of Nestles chocolate drink is up from $7.5 to $10.50.
    The increase for eggs could at least be explained by the bird flu. Just remembered salted roasted peanuts have been sporadically out of stock at Sam’s but not much price change there.

  15. }}} The Baraboo Walmart has huge gaps in the shelves.The Baraboo Walmart has huge gaps in the shelves.

    Yes, but Walmarts often have huge gaps on the shelves, this has been going on for a decade or more, and has far more to do with the incompetent design of their ordering and stocking system than it does any recent or current supply-chain issues**.

    That latter has possibly worsened things, but it’s not causative overall.

    ** Seriously: Around 2018 I walked around a local WM and found about 50+ examples of entire sections of WM shelving that was completely empty of product — 8 to 20′ wide. And that was not that atypical. When you asked managers about it, it was outside their control. The idiot system said they had stock and there was nothing they had within their power to correct it, short of a store-wide audit, which they had no intention of burning the manpower needed to accomplish (understandable).

  16. }}} Things like corn on the cob [pre-Biden 10 for $1] are NOT in good supply.

    Indeed. Here in FL, which is both the #2 ag state and the #2 dairy state (behind Cali and Wisconsin, I believe), partly because we have three growing seasons instead of one or two, I’ve yet to see any corn for less than 4/$2, where it historically has started at 4/$1 and gone down from that price as the crop came up.

  17. I made one of my rare weekend forays to Wal Mart and Aldi’s. The only noticeable voids were some generic store brand pharmacy items at Wal Mart and just about all the beer at Aldi’s.

    I did notice that the big bags of Frisky’s Seafood cat food that used to be 33 lbs. are now 30, not really sure if the price changed. At times this was hit or miss the last couple of years and I was reminded last week that we were down to only one unopened bag and that of the inferior 20 LB. size. With two bags, I’m sure Oscar will go back to ignoring me. I haven’t been buying it long enough to remember when it was probably 50 Lbs.

    Aldi’s, as a German enterprise and with some justification, seemed to believe that beer was something that American’s just didn’t do. Today almost exclusively Bud Lite, Coors Lite and Michelob Ultra. Even the Shiner’s was cleaned out. Their former variety of European imports had become a little hit or miss and had been filled out by some decent domestic brands, none besides Shiner’s known to me. Things may be getting serious.

    Aldi’s has also been out of French Bread individual pizzas, which an Italian would probably consider at least as grave an offense to common decency as Bud Lite, for several months.

    The upcoming beefpocalypse will be a product of the ongoing drought in most of the West. This has rendered summer pasture barren and winter forage production unproductive. In concert with the rise in fuel prices, what forage is available is ruinously expensive. This is leading to the liquidation of many of the breeding cow herds that produce the calves that would eventually enter the feed yards and from there to the packing plants. These breeding herds represent years of slow work building the genetics of beef productivity and will be a loss that will take more years to rebuild. The owners literally have no choice but to sell these cows for cheap canners since they have nothing to feed them. Many of these producers will likely permanently exit commercial beef production. As with most of agriculture, the average age of these producers is just shy of what most of us would consider retirement. This is the real crisis of American agriculture. In the mean time, beef prices will probably come down a little, enjoy that while it lasts because when they go back up, they’ll stay there for a good while.

  18. Not in my experience, especially before noon on Sunday. In Texas, beer can’t be sold before noon on Sunday. One of the few remnants of what used to be much more obnoxious blue laws. Aldi’s are small stores and I don’t think the party hardy crowd gets their beer there.

  19. MCS: “As with most of agriculture, the average age of these producers is just shy of what most of us would consider retirement. This is the real crisis of American agriculture.”

    That is an excellent point — completely lost on a Political Class who imagine that someone somewhere has written an ap to cover that.

    Let’s talk about garlic. In my neck of the Great SouthWest, fresh garlic from local growers (or even California growers) is now almost unknown. But there is a plentiful supply of garlic shipped all the way from … China. Good price, good quality too. Very difficult to explain.

  20. In Texas, beer can’t be sold before noon on Sunday. One of the few remnants of what used to be much more obnoxious blue laws.

    I remember when bars only served “setups.” You had to bring your own booze.

  21. In Texas, it’s by county. You have counties that are completely dry, where no liquor is sold but “private, members only”, clubs are allowed. Counties where only package sales are allowed and counties where normal (since Prohibition) standards apply. In fact, it’s possible to have a dry precinct in a wet county.

    In WWII, my dad had to take a train from Amarillo to Wichita Falls, the bar car was opened and closed according to which county they were passing through. When I first moved to Texas in ’79, there was a whole list of things that a store couldn’t sell on both Saturday and Sunday with the intent that they would close on Sunday. Stores that didn’t would have sections roped off with those items on one of those days. There were two Fur’s supermarkets within about a mile of each other, one was opened on Saturday, the other on Sunday, this was important to me because both had pretty extensive gun departments, and a gun store open on Sunday was rare because they were under these blue laws. Sadly, long gone.

  22. I’m not old enough to remember “obnoxious blue laws” but seems to me a society where you can’t buy booze on Sundays is preferable to one where you can’t say that people with penises shouldn’t be in women’s bathrooms.

  23. “but seems to me a society where you can’t buy booze on Sundays is preferable to one where you can’t say that people with penises shouldn’t be in women’s bathrooms.”

    So it might seem but both impulses spring from the same font; the desire to control how people think by controlling what they can do. The New England Puritans are mocked for hanging “witches” but few remember that they hanged nearly as many Baptists and banished many more to what was usually an only more drawn out form of death.

    A community where most people attend church on Sunday by choice is very different from one where they are compelled.

  24. What jumps out at me is how fast prices are rising.

    A few weeks ago I went to buy a certain item at a local grocery. It had gone from about $6 to about $9 since my last purchase. A day or so later later I happened to visit the nearest Walmart with a grocery. That same item was about $6. I bought several. The next time I visited- a week later- it was $7+. This Tuesday that item at the local store was $10. I haven’t been back to the Walmart.

    I may never buy that item again. I should note that the larger warehouse club version had already disappeared, which was the only reason I was looking for it a Walmart, etc.

    In fact, so many items have either disappeared or tripled in price that I may not bother to renew my warehouse club membership.

    I’ll also note that the appetizer section at my warehouse club where I would find that item is missing multiple items that I do not buy. The consequence is that there are multiple gaps filled by what they do have in stock, which makes the situation appear better than it really is.

    I notice this especially because I used to work at a store. I’m not sure how many people who never did would notice or care.

    Regardless, if people can’t afford to buy certain items or decide they’re too expensive, leaving them to sit on the shelf, then this will certainly make the out-of-stock problem look better.

    Wrongly, in my opinion.

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